Friday, April 13, 2012

Boston Marathon Countdown: 4 days to go - "Hello CITGO"

Date: April 12
Days till the race: 4

I woke 15 minutes before my alarm this morning after a late night of packing and preparing to leave for Boston today. The last few weeks, maybe even the last month, have been a roller coaster ride of emotions for me. Last night I was riding high as I opened my empty suitcase and began filling it with clothes, running shoes and a few hopes and dreams as well.

I don't know if I've ever had this diverse mixture of feelings about a race before. I'm usually looking forward to the race regardless of the circumstances surrounding the event; but Boston 2012 has put me on an emotional spin cycle. I think part of the reason is because this is my second visit to the Boston Marathon.  That matters for two reasons:

  1. Boston is not just a race but a convening of some of the fastest marathon runners around.  They say that qualifying is the hard part and that a runner should not "race" Boston, but simply enjoy it; yet there is this desire to be able to "hang" and show Boston how you got here.
  2. I always expect myself to do better at something the second time around.  The first time you learn about the challenge and the second time you apply those learnings and do better.  Unfortunately, I'm anticipating a much slower race this year, and I feel sad about that.
When I ran Boston last year, I was riding high on the excitement of making it to Boston; and felt a contentment simply to be at Boston. This year I feel like a failure. Yes, it seems unrealistic and extremely self critical.  I realize this. Yes, there are thousands of runners who would love to throw a well-worn shoe or two at me for even placing the words "failure" and "Boston Marathon" together in the paragraph.  Realistic or not, it's a shadowy emotion that I feel in my heart today.  Someone: throw a shoe at me!

As the plane descends over a cloudy Boston, my eyes scan the ground for any sign of the infamous marathon route from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in downtown Boston. My mind flickers through the fond memories I made last year. My mood swings up again as I recall coming into the final 5k of the course last year, and seeing the infamous "CITGO" sign on the horizon signaling that the finish line was within reach.  The "CITGO" sign is an emotional totem that only a Boston runner understands.  My spirits fly as I think about seeing that CITGO sign one more time, and see it in the most special way: as a Boston Marathon runner.

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