April 19: 7:00am. After a night of strange dreams and restless body, I'm awake an hour before the alarm. I went to bed thinking 7.5 hours of sleep would be enough to put my body right...but I guess it feels 6.5 will do. Go figure.
Dear body: you're not the boss of me! As I crawl back into bed intent on catching a few more zzzzz's, my mind plays over the events of yesterday. It feels like it was all a dream - or at least it does from the neck up. Did I really run the Boston Marathon yesterday? Did I really survive the freezing cold wind in the Athlete's Village? Did I really run the most famous marathon route in the world? Did I really spend the last three kilometers averaging a sub-5:00 pace? My heart races as I recall the events of the day before.
What goes up...must come down.
I'm not sure if other runners experience this, but I sometimes experience an emotional crash after a big race. It's kinda like crashing off of a sugar high. So many people sent me warm messages telling me to enjoy my success, but I couldn't ignore a niggling worry that I felt in my heart after the initial thrill of the moment wore off.
I have yet to come to terms with the roll running plays in my life. It gives me confidence. It shapes my body. It sharpens my wit. It keeps me sane. But as an existential thinker I'm always looking at how things plug into the big picture. Yes, it keeps me confident, fit, sane and more; but these are all personal benefits. Does that make "runner Jessica" selfish? If I spend 15 hours/week training to be a better runner, is that 15 hours spent on a selfish pursuit? Could that time have been better spent helping others?
Maybe it's just that race day leaves a bit of an empty cavern in a runner's mind - a cavern that was, for the previous 12 - 16 weeks filled with thoughts about training, nutrition, strategy and sometimes worry. Then comes race day, and it all comes together - all of the thoughts about training, nutrition and strategy are extinguished in a puff of triumphant smoke as you barrel across the finish line - leaving space for other thoughts to rush in. In my case, it's questions that rush in...
April 19: 2:00pm. As I drive out of Boston, the negative thoughts begin to dissipate like rain clouds being burnt up by the radiantly warm sun. Heading West on the I-90, I pass the exits for the various towns that a Boston Marathon runner passes through on the way from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in Boston. Newton, Wellesley, Natick, Framingham. Each name brings me to the edge of happy tears as I recall my 42 km journey. I felt proud again.
Life is a complex marathon in itself, and we can look at the journey of running the way we look at the journey of life. Sometimes it can mean things to others, but sometimes you have to run it just for you.
It's a great feeling when you can strike a balance between the two. Although Boston was mostly a personal experience, I'm comforted with the idea that maybe my marathon journey was a positive experience for others. If one runner learned something from my mistakes during the course of my training...if one spectator felt special because I "low fived" their outstretched hand as I ran along the race route...if one person dares to dream of their own proverbial "Boston Marathon" while witnessing me live mine, then I'm a success. My biggest wish is that my Boston Marathon journey meant something to others.