The weekend began with packet pick-up and the expo in Boston. It was over to the top crowded with the larger field size and so many people who just wanted to be a part of the event to show support. Besides long waits and a lot of people, it was much the same as prior years. One of the stand-out memories is the blue and yellow scarves. The Old South Church right near the finish line asked people all around the country to knit blue and yellow scarves so they could wrap the marathon runners in love and support the weekend of the marathon. It was so incredible to see so many people with various patterns of blue and yellow wrapped around them. Each scarf had a little note with who made it and where they were from. To learn more, check out their website-http://www.oldsouth.org/get-involved/old-south-knitters#scarf-project.
Sunday was Easter and the Dana-Farber pasta party. The pasta party is a celebration of the completion of the training season, fundraising accomplishments, family and friends, and our patient partners and in-memory families. If you weren't motivated and excited to be a part of the DFMC team already, a few minutes in the room with 1600 people all brought together by the same goal will do the trick.
We had a special speaker this year...a former runner, Darby Stott. Darby ran for Dana-Farber a few years back, but stood on the stage now as a patient. Darby has metastatic breast cancer. It has moved to different parts of her body, and as she told us, cancer will take her life. But, that wasn't why she stood before us all. She was there to say "thank you" for being a part of the team and raising much needed funds. She asked us to remember that on the course every time we heard "thank you Dana-Farber" the next day. She reminded us that there is so much promise and hope in the pipelines and that the money raised by the team is making the difference. And that while it isn't going to save her, it has extended her life in a way that wasn't available to her aunt 20 years ago. So brave. So strong. So inspiring and moving. She changed a lot of people through her story.
Monday started early with a long trip to the starting town of Hopkinton. The DMFC team meets at a church and spends time together prior to heading to the start. I got to talk with Emilee and Alicia a lot, both of whom I had met briefly but hadn't had much opportunity to get to know. We take a team picture which every year is highlighted by the "Living Proof" team....survivors and current patients....who are on the team. I always well up as the rest of the team gives them a well deserved standing ovation as they gather for the picture. This year, that group included a teammate who was diagnosed with cancer in December after having been accepted on the team and was in the thick of chemotherapy. She started the race with us and her goal was to reach her family at 10k...which she accomplished! Another teammate ran the entire distance and got in his car and drove himself to his next treatment at Dana-Farber. For real? Yes, for real. No excuses, my friends. These people are the real deal.
Brief race recap: after a long and very, very cold winter, we were blessed with the perfect day for a marathon....IF you were a spectator! It was warm. Warmer than most runners would prefer after not seeing temperatures above 40 degrees for months on end. Our wave started at 11 so beating the heat was not an option. Those sorts of things are beyond control, so you have to adapt and roll with it. I started slow and got slower but kept moving. I was having trouble stomaching any fuel but was trying to drink enough to quench thirst and stay hydrated, which turned out to be unsuccessful as I took a little detour at the end of the run to visit the medical volunteers with Dana-Farber. I started building in some walks on the first hill at mile 16 and kept it up until mile 25 when I ran the final 1.2 miles. Not my strongest race, but that isn't what I want to focus on because overall, it was a great day to be out there and here's why:
*A million people were lining the streets of 8 towns soaking up the absolutely beautiful spring day. They were 10 deep in places so early on the course that it was hard to believe there would be that many people all the way to Boston. But there was.
*The daffodils planted along the roads from start to finish in honor of the 2013 Boston Marathon tragedy. There were not a lot of spots along the course that weren't filled with people so it was tough to see them but when there were breaks, the roads were lined with yellow.
*People were holding signs that made me laugh (Chuck Norris never ran a marathon, If marathons were easy they'd be called your mom) and others that made me keep moving (No More Hurting People, Boston Strong, We own the finish line)
*My teammates that I saw on the course that carried me through. I can't stress enough what a difference they made in the last 6 miles of the run. I saw Chris and Amy in Newton, and fell into pace with them for a little while. Chris told me that Meb had won the race which was a bright spot other than the sun! I lost them when I went to say high to a friend in Newton. Thanksfully, another teammate, Megan, ran up to me at Heartbreak Hill. She was having some hip pain and was worried that she might not finish. We ran the last 5-6 miles together, I think alternately took on the role of cheerleader trying to motivate each other to keep on going. Her presence got me through the last miles in much better shape than had I been on my own.
*The noise level all the way along the course was deafening. Once we ran into Kenmore Sq., the final mile was packed with people. Boylston St. was overwhelming.
*A kind gentleman that had a bowl of pretzels and potato chips for salt. A few of those chips tasted like heaven!
*There were bands and music all along the course. In one spot in Framingham, "Sweet Caroline" was playing. All of the runners around me joined in singing and yelling "So good, so good, so good" while pumping their fists. Hilarious and uplifting. And in another spot, someone was playing audio clips from "Forrest Gump." As I came through I heard, "And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama." Amazing. That clip stayed in my head for a while on repeat.
*My friends out on the course rocking the Be good. Be strong. shirts. I saw friends in Framingham, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston. It was unbelievable. I know there were a bunch of people I missed seeing, but honestly knowing people were out there and looking for them along the road helps so much. I got hugs and Peanut M&M's and high fives and a lift to keep going.
*So many inspiring runners.....seeing Dick and Rick Hoyt in Wellesley as they hammered out that course for the 31st time. Many blind runners with guides called Team with a Vision. The team of survivors from 4.15.13. Disabled runners.
*Amazing volunteer, Leslie, waiting as I came into the DFMC recovery zone. She knew I had a tough day and was there as she always ready to help out. I couldn't have been happier to see her smiling face! There are hundreds of people that volunteer throughout the training season and over marathon weekend, and they are top notch. Soup, and drinks, and a massage, and support. Even a Fit Girl coach, Lisa, was around to help out this year.
*Another volunteer extraordinaire and friend, Sandy, waiting for me at Mile 25 and the DFMC
cheering section. Sandy had taken 3 balloons and surprised me with them to release into the sky to my 3 angels, Molly, Mary & John. Unbelievable moment. I could barely hold it together enough to start running again for the the final 1.2 miles. It meant so much, really beyond words. I had on blue socks in honor and in memory of her son, Matty. Their family is so incredibly supportive of the DFMC team and Dana-Farber.
*My family and neighbors at mile 17.5. Making that turn onto Comm Ave in Newton knowing they are waiting is the top moments for me each year. Without their endless support, encouragement and assistance, I would not be able to do this each year.
Beyond Boston, I am still running a lot. In fact, I have a year like no other which included this weekend with another marathon in Maine with my Fit Girl co-coaches. And at the end of the month, I will be running a 50k, my first. In November, I will be running the NYC Marathon. And as I continue to run, I will keep working towards my goal of $42,000 for cancer research. Our team has collectively reached a record setting $6.2 million but we are far from finished this season. We will continue to run in different aspects all over the country, racking up miles as we try to get money into the hands of researchers so people like Darby don't have to so bravely stand before a room full of people and tell them that she will die from cancer, yet with a smile thank us for running, and reminding us of the importance to keep going so others don't have to face the same fate.
You can make a donation online at www.runDFMC.org/2014/jennie
And I can't wrap up without some serious thanks...to everyone who donated, bought a shirt, or
Be good. Be strong.