I was drawn to the marathon this Monday for a few reasons. I wanted to see and feel my city come out and show our strength. The sun was shining after a long, harsh winter. I had spent last year’s Marathon Monday, the day of the bombings, in the hospital having major surgery. Proving one’s ability to move past the things that befall us was the order of the day.
I have been a spectator at perhaps a dozen Boston marathons over the years. When I first find my place along the route, a few paces east of the halfway point, I always need a few minutes to take it all in. I’m not there to see the elite qualifiers, but to see everyone else, the dazzling display of running styles and good causes jumbled together. Runners go by at a fast clip, and there are hundreds passing each minute. Their outfits take every form – from skimpy to modest – and are topped with baseball caps, visors, and the occasional bunny ears. Running in bright, sequined tutus (women and men) was big this year.
The standouts were the blind runners with guides, the kid making a go of it on crutches, the survivors on prosthetic legs, and the runners for the bombing victims, their team names emblazoned on their chests. And, of course, there were the Hoyts, the father-son team who have graced that field for 32 years, Dick running behind Rick’s wheelchair, pushing his grown son up and down those hills so they can both feel free. There are no words sufficient to describe these acts of grace and heroism.
Each year I learn two things: I have no interest in running a marathon, and I am inspired to my depths by marathoners. I hold those who run these iconic tests of endurance and will on a high pedestal. I am not so much interested in why they run – there are probably as many reasons as there are participants – but that they tackle this distance at all. You see it in their faces as they pass: the fire, the determination, the anxiety, the hope. You can’t help but call out, “You’re halfway there, keep it up! Doing great, you can do it!” You say it for them and a little bit for yourself. It stays with you.
I was congratulating a marathon-ing friend on her incredible accomplishment, and she expressed equal amazement that I had written a novel. I begged off. It needs a major rewrite, just a skeleton, nothing to show yet. “But you wrote it.” she said firmly, “you actually wrote it.” That’s what running a marathon is – putting the huge, impossible goal out there and then making it happen. Will you win the race? No. But no one can ever take away from you that you did the miles and crossed the finish line. The same goes for novel writing. Will it become a bestseller? Unlikely. But no one can deny you your effort, the risk you took, or the world you created, and that’s the win.
What is your scary, exciting, never-going-to-happen dream? What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Put on your own, sparkly running/writing/inventing/reinventing tutu and get out there. Run your race.