Sunday, April 20, 2014

Boston Marathon weekend

Heading back to Boston this year came with a mix of emotions. I was so glad to have the course itself feel familiar - no anxiety about the starting corrals, heartbreak hill or any other landmarks. But my heart was heavy as I wasn't sure what to expect from the unknowns of the day. 

I took my last pre-race run that morning in the perfect weather. I felt like a feather and ran with a smile on my face the entire time. I was ready. 

We arrived in Boston late Friday night after smooth flights from Moline to Chicago and Chicago to NYC...and a nightmarish connection at La Guardia (note: never fly into that airport ever again). 

The hottie in seat 18A was totally checking me out. 

We pounded our burgers at Five Guys (don't judge) and left our sentiments for Boston on the board. 

We were warmly welcomed into the home of two of Ryan's former Tuck classmates and slept soundly. 

Saturday found us at the marathon expo. We grabbed our gear bags and autographed the wall then headed for the finish line only to find that it was closed for the 5k that was finishing up. For one split second, I was annoyed (it was top on my list of things to do while there!). But then I looked up the street to see what was surely the last few stragglers of that morning's race heading down Boylston in wheelchairs and with crutches, their amputated limbs the cause of their slowed paces. My eyes welled with tears as I joined hundreds of fellow onlookers to cheer them to the finish line. 

This is why we came back. To prove we are all stronger, better, braver. To show that good will prevail no matter how long or hard the course. 

We walked beyond the finish line and crossed the street to Old South Church. Where we were gifted hand-made scarves knitted by volunteers located throughout the world. Mine came from a woman in Connecticut. The scarves came with a note that read, 
"Dear Marathon Athletes, 

In this year of rememberance and hope, we wish to wrap you in LOVE and PRAYER by presenting you with a handmade blue and gold scarf. The scarves are a labor of love by artists across the country and beyond, specifically for this year's athletes. May the scarf warm your spirit as you maneuver a new city, as you carry the weight of a somber anniversary year, and as you look down 26.2 miles with resolve."
And as the volunteer wrapped the scarf around my neck, I truly felt wrapped in so much love. Win for the good. 

We continued back up the street and found the pavement outside Marathon Sports, the site of the first explosion last year. The shattered windows had been replaced, the debris swept up. And I had an all-too-clear and close view of the bleachers across the street where Kate and Leah sat waiting with their grandparents just one year ago. I thought about those whose lives were permanently affected by the cowardly acts that day in 2013 and I cried. But only for a moment, because I saw the strength and smiles of some of those individuals still making their way down Boylston and realized they were healing both their bodies and their hearts. The good was still winning. 

We walked in the sunshine to meet up with Team Rett at Jerry Remy's sports bar. Teammates who have laughed with us, complained with us, pushed as and carried us as we trained through the ice and snow for the second year in a row all for the love of Leah and so many others who struggle each day. As each teammate arrived, we cheered and embraced and felt more complete. 

We made our way to Fenway to soak in the sunshine of a perfect spring day (a little too perfect for Ryan without sunscreen) and cheer the Red Sox to a win! 

We gathered again after with more teammates as well as Team Rett organizers from the Rett Syndrome Association of Massachusetts and members of the research team. We were given red ribbons to wear in honor of Maria McTernan, a beautiful Rett mom who was crucial in getting the Team Rett bibs for a few years running and was fighting cancer. She was most definitely in our thoughts as we ran. 

Ryan and I excused ourselves after awhile to meet up with some Tuck friends for dinner. My heart swelled to be in a room with these dear friends again. Friends who experienced Boston with us last year and some who traveled thousands of miles to be with us again this year. 

Easter Sunday came and we were able to spend the day with even more Tuck and New Hampshire friends with a delicious pre-race meal. It was a perfect distraction for my marathon jitters and a perfect ending to a fulfilling weekend. I don't think I stopped smiling all day. 

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