Last Saturday, Ken and I joined approximately 7000 other runners for the 10th anniversary of the Salt Lake City Marathon. While most planned to run the race long before the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon the Monday prior, some signed up to run just a few days before. Many runners that ran the marathon in Boston showed up to run the marathon in Salt Lake just 5 days later, “to finish what they started,” some said. Regardless of when we made the decision to run, the runners turned out with amazing Boston Spirit to honor the sport of running, the victims of the bombings and the prestige of the Boston Marathon.
There is something about the running community as a whole that is so phenomenal. Crazy, maybe, but heart and determination are a definite. Nothing was going to break the spirit of the runners on that day or any day following. They all, we all, collectively were going to find ways to run to show our love of the sport and our love for Boston in many big ways.
My friend and owner of BIC Bands (headbands that don’t slip) created a Boston Strong headband immediately following the attacks. 100% of the purchase price is being donated to “The One Fund” to support the families that suffered from the Boston Marathon Tragedy. As of today, they have raised over $11,000.
I was honored to be running one of the first big city races following Boston. After reading a suggestion to wear green in honor of Boston on the Salt Lake Marathon Facebook page, my heart was set on green for the race. Ken decided on his Boston Redsox gear as a tribute. Many runners turned out with blue and yellow, to replicate the Boston Marathon colors. All of the runners that day seemed to run with Boston spirit in a way that meant something to them individually.
The race organizers incorporated many ways to honor Boston, starting with a banner for everyone to sign that was mailed to the Race Directors and the Boston Athletic Association to show support.
Blue and yellow ribbons were available for everyone to pin to themselves. Runners in the crowd passed out bracelets honoring Boston.
After slipping on my “Run Now” bracelet. A chilling silence fell on the crowd. We already knew we were there running for the victims of Boston, but the simple mention of the name over the loud speaker quieted everyone in seconds. The race began with a moment of silence followed by an emotional sing-a-long to “Sweet Caroline,” the song traditionally played at the Redsox games.
My goal was to run the race and run it hard. I always start my half-marathons way too fast. I know this and I know it is not the most effective way to run a great race, but it is a hard habit for me to break, especially at a half-marathon like Salt Lake City that starts with a big decline. This day I really wanted to have a great time so I managed to hold back at the start. Ken and I ran the first mile or so together and as I ran a steady, calm pace vs. my typical “I’m going to run with the elite runners for as long as I can” race pace, I knew I would have a great race. Even with the effort to run smarter, I still started faster than Ken (Ken starts much, much slower than me but always beats me in the end). As he held back around mile two, I started to forge forward. I felt great, I was energized by the steady rain and cool temperatures and was inspired by the running community and the support it showed that morning. I was running for the love of the sport, but I won’t lie, my competitive side kicked in and I thought, “Finally, I am going to beat Ken.”
I was enjoying the race and the amazing spectators. The crowds that lined the streets were incredible. Given the weather and the security threats, you would have expected the course to be empty of support. But the number of people out there cheering us on was more than I have seen at many big, big races. Way to represent, Salt Lake! I was doing my best to say “thank you,” giving a wave or a fist pump here and there to those that were out there when I saw a spectator in a green tank top, similar to mine but with a huge, white Boston B on the front. Like those before him, I cheered back to him and glanced back to read the text “Embrace the Suck!” on the sign he was holding. “Funny,” I thought. After all, this could be a pretty “sucky” race with the rain and the cold and the hills I was about to encounter in Sugarhouse park, but it wasn’t sucking… not yet.
As I glanced back at the sign, I stepped in a hole and rolled my ankle. While I didn’t fall, I did feel immediate pain and hobbled for many steps, putting as little weight on my ankle as possible. I felt like crying mostly because I was so mad rather than because of the pain. I limped a few more steps when a man in a yellow and blue shirt passed me. The back of his shirt read “Keep Running.” These shirts were made specifically for this race following Boston. And so, I kept running.
I was running at a significantly slower pace, but I continued to run. I debated many times over the next 9 miles whether I should be running but each time I thought about stopping another runner would pass me in a Boston, “Keep Running” shirt and I felt like they were speaking to me. So, I kept running.
I ran slow. I was angry that I wasn’t running faster. I felt sorry for myself when Ken passed me and I couldn’t keep up with him. I battled internally, telling myself I was just using the excuse of my ankle to run slower. “Run Faster” I silently screamed at myself. But for every step that I tried to run faster, it seemed the next 10 would be exponentially slower. I remembered the sign, “Embrace the suck.” And so, through the freezing rain, the pain of a swollen ankle, at a pace that felt like I was crawling, I embraced the suck and kept running. I thought about the runners in Boston, I thought about the victims and the physical and emotional pain that they were dealing with and I thought about my friend Teresa, battling cancer. And, I kept running.
The past few weeks have been hard, filled with bombs and terrorists hitting close to home and cancer filling so many of my thoughts. There will be many hard weeks ahead but I will ‘embrace the suck’ and I will continue running no matter how slow or painful.