Last Saturday, I went into Boston and met up with about 100 other Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge runners for our last "long" training run of the season. We were to run out 11 miles on the course, and turn around and run back. Boston College to Natick and back. Simple concept, and not so hard to execute as long as you just keep moving! I had a good run, falling in with 4 other teammates of similar pace. We took turns leading the way, and got through the 22 miles mostly unscathed, with some good conversation and get to know you talk. It was a perfect weather day for a long run...overcast and 50. The atmosphere on the course was electric with hundreds of other runners out testing themselves on the actual Boston Marathon course 3 weeks before the BIG day. All is all a success, and in terms of running, I got out of it what I needed. A good, long run to conclude the peak week of training.
I got a little more out of it in terms of inspiration. At each group run put on by Dana-Farber, volunteers set up water stops every 2-3 miles. These wonderfully kind people stand outside for hours, early on weekend mornings, sometimes in sub-freezing temperatures and gusty winds. Many are former patients, families, runners, or Dana-Farber supporters. We run from January until April together, so generally speaking, the weather is not ideal for standing still outside. But they do it, each and every week, and it makes our lives easier. They have water, Gatorade, pretzels, gummy bears, and my personal favorite...peanut M&M's. And they always have a smile on their faces and encouraging words for every single runner that stops in for some fuel.
This week, we had a family come out to man one of the stops for us, and since it was an out and back course, we hit each water stop twice. Matty's family...his parents, brothers and friends...were out there with balloons, "Don't Stop Believin" playing loudly, big cheers and applause for our team. They were out there in honor of Matty, whose "Angelversary" was the next day, March 25. 5 years since his family had lost Matty to cancer. They also had a big picture of Matty. I saw his smiling face on that picture during our first stop, but on our way back, I stopped to look a little closer and there was the year 1999 marking his birthday. The year he was born is also the year our oldest daughter was born. But next to his birthday was his "Angelversary" and standing there making that connection really got me. He should be 12 years old, but his picture was that of a sweet-faced 7-year old and it always would be. I had to step away, take a deep breath and collect myself and get moving. This lovely, kind family was out there to celebrate Matty's life. They had such a positive, enthusiastic attitude, and how do you not find inspiration from this family out there honoring him in such a positive way, and reaffirming their commitment to bringing an end to cancer.
How do you say thank-you for that? You can't. You just don't stop, and keep running.
Saturday was also my sister Molly's birthday. It would have been her 41st, and there would have likely been "getting old" talk, with some jokes and digs in there, cake and paper crowns. She did birthdays right. But like Matty, Molly's pictures will not show her age beyond 36. No gray hair or wrinkles, always the twinkle in her eye. I got a little lift from her on Saturday, maybe I do every day, but she was certainly along for the duration.
And with continued inspiration and a final really long run, the beginning of the end of training is here. About two to three weeks before a marathon, the process of tapering begins. For many (if not all) runners who
have been training for months for an upcoming marathon, TAPER time is a
welcome occasion. For the Boston Marathon, Saturday marked the last
"long run" and the beginning of our taper leading up to April 16.
run" is a relative term. When beginning training 15 weeks ago, it
meant 8-10 miles. Saturday, it meant 22 miles which is a BIG difference, but
also totally doable given the gradual increase over time. The schedule
for the coming week week, when our miles are decreasing, calls for only 12-15
miles. At what point 12-14 miles becomes a "short" run, I am not sure but it sounds awfully nice after 22. Mentally and
physically, the next three weeks allow for some healing and resting
before the marathon.
There are two parts to this Marathon training story....the "Running" and the "Why." The Why gives Running some additional meaning and purpose beyond what I reap from just regular runs around town. These two pieces of my life have really become truly intertwined over the past 4 years when I started running the
Boston Marathon for Dana-Farber. I believe in both of these things. The people I've met, the stories I've heard, the roads I've run, the research that has been funded....it's made a difference, to me and I hope to others who may reap the benefits.
Be good. Be strong.
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