Sunday, April 20, 2008

You Can't Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd

I love this song (by Roger Miller). Some of you know already…I cheated. I used the same song in my blog the day before the marathon last year. Different verse last year…”You can’t go fishing in a watermelon patch”…but same song.

With some exaggeration, that’s what it will be like at the start of tomorrow’s race. Picture thousands of runners packed shoulder to shoulder into a small street, trailing back for almost a half mile (that’s right, some people will have to travel an extra half mile just to get to the start), and with the pent up energy of a 5 year old on a sugar and caffeine high on Christmas eve. Now if we could only harness that energy think of the effect we could have on global warming: 20,000 runners running 26 miles means over a 1/2 million miles will be run in Boston Monday.

So, it’s the day before the race and like most runners, Heather, Marshall and I are a bit on edge. It’s not that we are not ready; it’s just that we know so much can go wrong. Like most of the runners we worry about the weather, and what we will wear, and not missing the bus to the starting line (ours leaves at 6 AM), and drinking enough, and finding a an open port-a-john just before the start (you laugh…try running 26 miles with your legs crossed), and….well you get the idea. When you think about it, as tough as it is to get from the starting line to the finish line, it’s equally tough to get from the decision to do this to the starting line. Six months of training and hundreds of miles on the roads leave plenty of chances for the random pothole to swallow your foot, or the black ice patches to take you for a ride on your back, or twist an ankle climbing the snow piles on the side of the road dodging the occasional car that comes too close. Then there’s the flu, winter colds, pulled muscles, knotted hamstrings, frostbite and bad knees (yeah…we know that one all too well). Add to this that most marathon runners I know love life, which means they are fitting the training into an already busy life.

I can give you dozens of examples but here’s one that is close to home this year. Our team leader is a working mom named Susan Hurley. Susan is not only our mother hen but also a marathon runner (and has completed the Hawaii Iron Man competition). While training for the race three weeks ago she took a bad fall. Very bad. Broke her arm, mashed several fingers, and banged her head. Picture bones coming through the skin, lots of blood, operations to put in steel rods. On top of all the pain was the heartbreak of being told she wouldn’t be able to run the race. After all the training, effort and camaraderie leading the team, she would have to sit it out. I would not be surprised to see her at the starting line Monday.

But seldom if ever do I hear a complaint from marathon runners about the effort. Oh we will complain about our injuries (see my last blog) and moan about the weather but that’s just because we are obsessing about one thing…getting to the starting line at the Boston Marathon healthy enough and trained enough to get to the finish line.

And then the day is here. Suddenly all those months of training, all the effort, pain, early mornings, cold days, nights when you couldn’t party (those really hurt), all translate from getting to the starting line to getting to the finish line.

Adidas has a great marketing program around the marathon called “Impossible is nothing”. People were encouraged by Adidas to submit their feelings before the race last year and they became the marketing campaign for this year. One of my favorites “Brain Off, Legs On”.

For every runner there’s a story. It’s what has gotten them through all the effort to get to the starting line. We all know there will be pain involved in finishing; it’s only a question of how soon it starts and how intense it gets. It’s the reasons behind the each runner’s story that will give them the mental fortitude to keep going when the rest of the body says enough (another Adidas note “My legs were screaming but the crowd was screaming louder”). For me, and I believe for Heather and Marshall as well, what will carry us through the painful parts will be the support we have gotten from you and knowing we are running to help others. For that, I can’t thank you enough.

For those of you who were able to donate to Lazarus house, you have done the same for a significant number of people who are also in pain. While most of you will never meet the people you’ve helped I have met some and I can tell you their gratitude is immeasurable. Dave McGillivray, the race director for the Boston Marathon and a man I consider to be a real hero, said at a recent meeting (and I paraphrase)….We all know someone who has been touched by cancer and therefore it’s easier for us to support charity efforts in that area. But how many of us know a homeless person. Your efforts will put food in the hands of hundreds of people and prevent mothers from having to make the agonizing decision of paying the rent or feeding her children. No matter what happens tomorrow you are all winners.

So the theme for tomorrow is the chorus from Roger Miller’s song:



See you in Boston!!!

PS: For those of you who might be out on the course or checking online (instructions below)...I plan to start out at around a 9 min./mile pace. We start around 10:30 so if my knee holds out till 13 miles I should be half way around 12:30 (give or take 10 minutes to get through the crowd at the start). Heather and Marshall will be starting at 9:30 pace. We all have white singlets with our names on the front and I will have a picture of my son Nick as well.
For those that might be tracking us online...our numbers are 21757 (Heather), 21758 (Marshall Lewy) and 21755 (me). Go to the BAA site below to check how we are making out.

1 comment:

jon said...

3:33 and 4:20 is impressive! Congratulations!