Monday, August 12, 2013

The Day Like No Other - Boston 2013 Part III

I am here. Wake Up.

I often thought about how I would feel about being at Boston. I could only think it would be a day like no other. Whenever I imagined being on that starting line in Hopkinton and then leading the race for those first few miles with my fellow mobility impaired friends, well, it was beyond what was possible. It had to be a dream. Yet I hold my race number in my hands on the morning of April 15, 2013:


Pink sticker.

9 a.m. start.

How is this possible? How is this not a dream?


"Tightening of the laces. Serious stuff." - Jennifer
I woke up one minute before my alarm went off, 3:44 am. I took my time getting ready, a little spacey but not so much as to not go through my checklist to make sure I had all I needed. Randy came by our room and we talked about pace, what camera he would take, and other details for the race. He also changed his left shoelace to the Terry Fox one I had given him.

I make a last weather check and decided what clothes I would need and what I could leave behind. What I leave behind could have caused big problems.


We leave to go downstairs to meet Kelly and BethAnn at 5 a.m. I am mostly calm, still not quite sure of this reality, this strange world I am passing through. Photos, a hug and kiss to my sweet wife Jennifer, and we begin our dark walk to the buses. For Hopkinton. To run The Boston Marathon.

On our way
Jennifer is going to meet the kids and Ashley around mile 21 to watch the race. I know this will be a good place because it is just beyond the crest of Heartbreak Hill. Either I will be struggling and will need love's lift, or I will be running well and will get that boost to drive myself home.

Kelly leads us to the buses. I don't have a good idea of how far we have to go, but fortunately the walk is shorter than to the expo. We board quickly which surprised me, and soon we are on our way. To Hopkinton. To the start of The Boston Marathon.

Kelly and me
We exit our bus in a chill air and enter the Athlete's Village for the must-have "It All Starts Here" photo. My sweatshirt is one Jennifer gave me from her college, and I love that I was reading "Again to Carthage" once more on our trip up to Beantown.

We walk over to the school gym where the wheelers and other early start MIs gather to prepare themselves for the race to come. Along the way we meet John Young, who hoped to be the first person in his category to run this greatest of races.

First Boston for John and me
I set up shop next to Scott where some power outlets are so I can put a final charge on my prosthetic vacuum pump. The time goes by quickly. I snack on a bagel with peanut butter as I make final adjustments. Donning my leg I realize I am missing extra prosthetic socks. I need one single ply to snug up my fit but have none. If this was a 5k I'd not be concerned, but I go into a mild panic thinking of being uncomfortable for 26.2 miles.

My residual is long and Scott's socks are too short, but I add a longer, thin sheath and that will have to do. The mental note is made in big red bold letters for next year. Bring the $%&! extra socks.

One last pit stop and a note on Jay's poster Randy has taped to the wall: One More. My first Boston, One More for The Greatest. I would not lack for inspiration this day, in fact, it was endless.


Who I Am
I remember walking out of the gym, seeing the Hoyt sculpture, and briefly waiting until we were lead to the starting line. I wore our beloved Don Pablo's bright orange collar on my right wrist and my "Cure FOP" bracelet on my left.

It seemed like any other race. Maybe I was overwhelmed. Maybe because there was only us MIs, perhaps 20 altogether, that we didn't have the buzz of a huge corral. This just couldn't be happening to me. I don't have a foot. I am in Hopkinton. On the starting line. Of. The. Boston. Marathon.

It is announced that there will be 26 seconds of silence for the 26 victims of Newtown. The crowd hushes. I bow my head. My thoughts wander then grow quiet. Into my mind a vision appears, that of children. I see them above. A boy. Not sure, but maybe a girl out of focus on his left. And then I hear singing, the high, sweet sonorous singing of children. It is all in my mind. It is what I believe. In a few seconds this vanishes.


We begin the 2013 Boston Marathon. Mike, Randy and I turn our backs to Boston, facing Hopkinton, taking the first few steps as Jay would have done, running backward in his chair. We turn and run in near perfect conditions, far from the furnace of last year.

It will be a day like no other.

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