Remote in hand, I was looking for a little Saturday Night Live last night before bed. Yet as I flipped through the channels, I stopped on something that I always stop on: people running in a race.
I’ve been away from running for about 5 years now, but I still can’t look away. I rubber-neck every jogger in my neighborhood, blather on about my glory days to anyone who will listen, and fondle the racing shoes I keep in the front corner of my closet. It’s in my blood. And when I find a race on TV, the remote gets set down and my legs start twitching. God forbid I have somewhere to be when I tune in at the 30-minute mark of some marathon coverage– I’m there for the duration.
So last night, there was something about the sky or the scenery that seemed familiar… and then a banner for John Hancock Financial blurred by the camera, and I knew I had guessed right: Boston. It was a rerun of the 2009 Boston marathon, to be exact. Three women were running in a tight group through what looked like the final stretch of the race… and yep, there they went by the Citgo sign. The one in front was pulling hard, while the two behind seemed more comfortable. And sure enough, when they got to that right on Hereford and the final left onto boisterous Boylston Street, the front runner got gapped as the two other women traded sprints for the finish. But in a remarkable show of tenacity, the former leader never moved out of frame– she was right there, 10 yards back, running flat out to close the gap right up until the end. And she wasn’t the only person crying after she came across the line.
As my legs slowly stopped twitching, I realized that this is what I miss most about marathoning. The focus. The determination. The sheer force of will. Where else in life do people pour absolutely everything they have into a single endeavor? In the case of Boston, qualifying at another marathon, then training through the winter to hammer their quads on 26 miles of hills in the middle of a Monday? Every single person taking that right onto Hereford and then that left onto Boylston to see the finish line a few blocks ahead. Every single person running that last stretch with every ounce of energy they can possibly muster. A few finish satisified with a victory, real or personal. Most finish with a lingering question of how they could have done better. But everyone knows that they did everything that they could on that day in that special place.