by Erin Woodrow
I stood there in awe, teeth chattering, legs plastered in mud like paper maché. Moments before, we had been ushered off yellow school buses, herded like cattle and directed to wait in large fields until our “waves” were called. People wrapped themselves in garbage bags and lay on the ground huddled close together, trying to stay warm. There were no cell phones to be found, little laughter filled the air and friendly exchanges were few. The freezing temperatures, torrential rains and heavy winds made warmth hard to find and spirits even harder to lift. There was, however, a smell of excitement in the air and an energy that even the strong winds couldn’t tame.
I tried to count the endless hours that I, and the 30,000 others who surrounded me, had invested toward the opportunity to stand exactly where we were standing. Although my spirits were dampened by the treacherous weather, I knew it was a privilege to be standing in this particular position. This was the running of the 122nd Boston Marathon, now widely regarded as the event’s worst weather conditions in the last century.
I knew there was something special about this event long before I took part myself. As I exited the plane, I almost tripped over lettering engraved in the ground, plated in a golden steel that read: “Welcome to the home of the Boston Marathon.” As I retrieved my luggage, I immediately noticed the many Boston Marathon jackets that surrounded me.
The spirit of the race was in the air and the gritty Boston citizens, whose demeanour seems to perfectly align with the iconic event, openly welcomed the influx of runners that would take over the city. This city, and this race, have been through a lot in its long history. We heard stories from the locals about the 2013 bombing—stories of regret and loss, but also of coming together through love. I couldn’t help but wonder why this information was being openly shared with us. Maybe it was the “Boston Strong” shirts we were wearing, or the tone of compassion, regret and genuine interest in our voices. Regardless, it was a privilege to hear what this race represents for the beautiful city and people of Boston.
Before I could truly process my surroundings on that dreadful Monday morning, or even drink the cup of coffee I had been holding tightly to keep my hands warm, I heard my wave being called. I began to prepare myself for the pain that comes with holding on to a quick pace for 26.2 miles. I looked into the faces of my comrades as we walked towards the start. Were we all really about to go and run in these hurricane-like conditions? I guess we all came to the same conclusion, because as the horn blew, we all put one foot in front of the other and propelled our bodies forward.
I’m certain that for years to come I’ll be able to recall the many little moments that filled those miles. When I crossed the line, after 3 hours and 24 minutes with my friend at my side, we embraced and looked at one another, shivering, lips deep blue in color, tears filling our eyes. “Never again,” we both stated and laughed awkwardly. I’m not certain if my uncharacteristic tears were from pain, exhaustion, hypothermia, or the pride we both felt from completing the journey we had both set out to achieve.
As I reminisce back on the freezing cold and early morning runs, the aches and pains and the small sacrifices I made along the way, a popular quote from my friend’s kindergarten class keeps coming to mind: “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”Running Boston was a chance to pour my heart and soul into something special, to find identity and pride in something I now get to hold forever.