When I arrived in Massachusetts I was searching for myself and looking to get fit and lose weight.
It wasn't until 2012 that enough was enough. I started running that January and I volunteered at the Boston Marathon for the first time in April. I was still really struggling to run a few miles and here I was surrounded by thousands of people taking on one of the most prestigious 26.2 mile races of all time.
By this point I had done some research and learned all about the Boston Marathon. I knew that most of the athletes there could run an entire marathon at a pace much faster then my then-current 5k personal best. Gulp. I don't know why but I expected everyone to look like an Olympic athlete there. Don't get me wrong, thousands of the athletes there do look super human. I was amazed though to see how many of them looked just like me. I was also very surprised that most everyone was unassuming. I was so in awe of all of them and everyone was so kind and appreciative. I had people thanking me in various languages. I spoke to so many people and told them I had just started running and everyone told me that if I wanted to run a marathon, I could. That if I wanted to qualify for Boston, that I could. They had done it and so could I. It was absolutely invigorating. I had just been introduced to one of the best attributes of the running community, encouragement.
I left Hopkinton that day with a tiny nugget of hope that maybe, just maybe, I could run a marathon someday.
With the spirit of Boston, the love and guidance of the online running community, and the encouragement from one of my main running inspirations (Jamie I love you!) I became a marathoner 10 months later.
I became a marathoner in what I can only assume are some of the worst ever marathon conditions. I was determined to earn that title, even in snow, sleet, rain, freezing cold, and high winds. I finished that race with Jamie at my side.
In April 2013 I again volunteered at the Boston Marathon. The day before I had ran the B.A.A. 5k and been able to run the historic "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" and sprint to the finish line. (All while pretending that I was in the homestretch of completing my own Boston Marathon. It was glorious.)
That year I felt like part of the running community a bit more. I worked up by the speedy folks in Corral 1. I was again amazed by the kindness, generosity, and appreciation from the athletes. In 2013 I really soaked it in. I think I was even MORE in awe of everyone, now knowing first hand how difficult a marathon is.
I choose to remember the good of that day. I will hold on to the memories of strangers helping one another. I will remember high fiving, hugging, and shaking hands with hundreds of people as they lined up to start their race. I'll remember all the smiles, the nervous laughter, and the looks of determination. I'll remember how so many of them spoke of this being their dream come true. Awful things transpired last year, but I believe we fought back with some of our greatest tools: Love, kindness, generosity, selflessness, and encouragement.
Since that day, I've ran many miles thinking of those lost, injured, and otherwise affected by the bombings. Somedays I would just start crying mid-run and have no idea how to turn off the waterworks. I will never understand the bad in the world, but I will try to be some of the good in the world.
Last autumn I ran my second 26.2 in Maine, the Mount Desert Island Marathon. It had been 6 months since the Boston Marathon and we all stood at the start line in silence, remembering. From the back of the startline we heard a bagpiper and slowly, without instruction, the sea of brightly colored runners parted and he made his way through us. We were all overcome with emotion. Jamie and I could barely look at each other because we would sob even harder.
|We both went on to have a great day and a fantastic race. Thanks again to Isaac our amazing pacer. He had ran Boston in 2013 and we actually talked about it some during this race.|
I always knew that I would return to volunteer in 2014. Some of my family and friends worried for me, but I needed to be there. The Boston Marathon has been a big part of my life. It changed me. It made me believe that I could do something that I NEVER imagined. It's even made me hope to one day be able to run in it. I wanted to once again be there and help others as they lived their dreams.
So yesterday Joe and I woke up at 4am and headed into Hopkinton. Some things were different this year. We had to park elsewhere and go through security checkpoints. Every way you turned you saw law enforcement. It took much longer to travel in and get to our team meet up spot. Eventually we had our credentials and job assignments though.
This year we were in the corral staging area. Due to increased security we had to check for bibs or credentials of everyone passing through. I cannot even begin to imagine how many times I said the word "BIBS" or the phrase,"Keep your bibs visible at all times." My vocal cords are sore today. My eyes were constantly scanning the crowds. I was working alongside law enforcement and they would shout out to me if they hadn't seen someones bib and I'd chase them down and ask them to please show me. I know it must have been annoying to the runners but most everyone was a good sport.
I can't count how many people said,"Thank you for volunteering." I probably high fived a thousand people yesterday. A few people randomly hugged me and said,"Thank you." It was incredible. I was able to see a few of you there too! My friend Sara and I embraced and I basically lifted the tiny thing off the ground. Moments later my friend Ali appeared in my path and we hugged also. It was great to see a hometown girl ready to rock the race. My friend Bill yelled out to me and we high fived. (He live tweeted and here's a story on it.) A few of you yelled out "Carpe Diem Crystal" and hugged me. I cannot begin to explain what that meant to me.
The women in uniform that worked near me were absolutely AMAZING!! It was freakin' awesome to have them near me, standing courageous and strong. They made me feel safe and they were both hilarious. They stuck to protocol and didn't mess around. The house we were in front of was incredible. They talked to us and offered us water and such. One of the residents spoke of how the marathon has evolved over the years. She couldn't believe how much law enforcement was present and the security measures that were in place. I couldn't help but smile as I thought about all the different areas we were from and how we were all brought together by the race. It's the spirit of running and its the spirit of the marathon.
I was often teary eyed as I would read the athletes shirts.
"I've come back to finish"
"Canada Stands with Boston"-with maple leaves everywhere
"Japan Runs For Boston" -also written in Japanese on the shirt
"Detroit is Boston Strong"
"I've waited a year to cross the finish"
"This is our city. Boston Strong."
"I love the NY Yankees but I am Boston Strong."
"I won't back down."
Since we'll be moving to Alaska in about 6 weeks, I won't be able to volunteer at the Boston Marathon for awhile. I will cherish all these memories though. I will continue to be inspired by those that run it and those of us that hope to someday qualify. Thank you Boston for helping to mold me into a runner and a better person. I have been at the start line and I have been to the finish line, someday I will run all the miles in between. My body may move to Alaska but my heart will always be in Boston. Thanks for everything.