Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marathon Monday

I woke up early that day, because I had to take the T to work out in Newton when I usually drove.  Commonwealth Ave was closed for the marathon and it would have taken me twice as long to reroute my commute by car than it would to take public transportation to my suburban nanny job.  As I waited for the train in the cool underground at Central Square, I saw my first marathoner, in his bib and shoes and high-tech warmup jacket already unzipped, 80 degrees and rising on that sunny April day.  I giddily wished him luck and he acknowledged me with a brief nod, far too zoned in to care.

A couple hours later, with the mercury pushing 90 now, I arduously wrestled two five-month-olds into their double stroller, and set off.  Newton residents rally for the marathoners with ferocity, since their town heralds Heartbreak Hill, the Boston marathon's notorious soul-crushing ascent at mile 20 when the glycogen is gone and you want to die more than you ever have before.  By the time I had walked the mile and a half to where the runners were streaming by, I was drenched in sweat and so were my cranky charges.  I squinted through my cheap sunglasses as I wrangled the enormous stroller through the crowd until we could get some visibility (shade was long since gone).  And then I saw them.  I saw the runners, faces purple and eyes with a look of mingled desperation, fear, and wild determination, some of them dripping in sweat and some - terrifyingly - dry.  I heard people around me ringing cowbells and shouting, and my heart swelled and something in me rose fighting to the surface and spoke in a small, quiet voice, What if you could do that?

What if, indeed.

I periodically checked on the twins for the next thirty minutes we stayed, but my heart was in the street, with those who were limping by.  It looked horrible, it looked painful, it looked impossible, but something in me thought, hey what if.

I eventually dragged myself away from the sidelines and hefted the babies back home.  The day went on with lunch and naps and a long ride home on the packed green line.  Weeks and months followed, and I struggled with food and eating enough to survive and not eating enough to get sick and I moved to New Haven and finally, one day, I answered that little voice inside that asked What if.  And on that day, I went out for a run.

Yesterday, when I finally collapsed on the couch after clinical and glanced at a few of the images from yesterday's horror and H. updated me on the body count and all that had happened, I started to cry.  I remembered the sight of those people - nay, heroes - running last year and how it changed something in me and how much that meant to me.  I remembered Boston, and how even though I only lived there eight months, it became home to me and I grew territorial and protective over its quirks and charms.  And I thought of how hard last weekend was, at only half of that impossible distance and how much it hurt and how much I wanted to die but also - that I did it, and that I was proud, and that I would (probably) do it again.  I thought of all of that and then I thought of every person affected by the bombings and I thought, How can someone want to attack something so good and so pure as the greatest footrace in the world?

And I don't have an answer for that one.

But tonight, when I get home from school, I will walk down the street and pick up the dog.  I will put on my sneakers and I will go for a run.  And my foot still twinges from last week, and my hip flexors are achy and sore, but so what.  The miles keep going, and maybe, someday, enough of them will build up that I'll get a crazy idea and I'll run enough marathons to qualify for Boston and I'll go back to the city I love, and I will ask myself what the hell was I thinking as I cruise through Newton towards Heartbreak Hill.  Maybe.  And certainly, what if.

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