When I lined up to race the Boston Marathon in 2009, I had no idea how much one race could change my life.
I had decided to run Boston after running my debut marathon in NYC in 2008. I fell in love with the distance, the craft of training properly, the challenge and beauty of it all. I made a lot of mistakes in NY and I immediately started thinking about what if I took more time to prepare, really got to know a course, how would I do? I set my sights on Boston 6 months later.
Building up to Boston I traveled and trained on the course. I made two trips to Beantown, running the course and visualizing what it would be like on Patriots Day. I immediately fell in love with the course. It was intimate, with big trees and neighborhoods. It felt like I was on a Sunday run, it didn’t feel as intimidating as the concrete jungle of NYC.
I was given the book Boston Marathon by Tom Derderian and I devoured it. I read it cover to cover and I imagined my name being written in it. I wanted my story to be told, the year an American returned to Boston after a 26 year victory drought and won. And it would be me. That’s what I hoped for, that’s what I imagined. That’s what got me out of bed and through the training. I was obsessed with running into history.
I was open with my desire to win. I shared my lofty goal. And the city embraced it. They supported me on my visits through town, they gave me so much encouragement, they believed in me.
So when I lined up, I was as prepared as could be. I was in love with the opportunity I was about to have. I was feeling so much love and support. I was ready to run.
Most people know what happened next. We ran the race. There was never a moment in 26 miles when people weren't yelling my name. We were slow, so slow as a group. I got antsy at 20 miles and took off. I narrowed the lead group from double digits down to 3. But I panicked, I doubted myself with 5 miles to go and backed off the accelerator. With a mile to go I was still in the lead, but as we headed down Boylston St. I found myself in 3rd. They out-sprinted me, and I had to settle for 3rd place.
I was devastated. I had never before let myself be so exposed. I had let the whole world in to my goal and I didn’t complete it. I had gotten everyone’s hopes up and I had said that I would deliver, and I failed. It was both the most amazing and shattering experience of my running career. I had never felt like I had let so many people down in my life. I just wanted to go back in time, back to 5 miles to go and continue to accelerate, to see if I could have won in that way.
It has been 9 years since I first ran the Boston Marathon. I still have never watched any race footage, it is still difficult to talk about. In fact, I am teary eyed as I type this out. But I have forgiven myself for not winning. Not only have I forgiven myself, but I have learned to appreciate Boston 2009. Over the years people have told me that it was the most inspiring race they saw, me going for it, fighting for the win. That has helped heal me and value what I did that day. I didn’t cross the line first, but I gave it all I had. I let everyone in, and they weren’t disappointed in me. They knew I did the best I could and that was enough.
I went back to Boston in 2011 where I finished 5th and had a 6 1/2 month baby waiting for me at the finish. I went back in 2013 where I finished 6th and felt the impact of the bomb both physically and emotionally. But it was that race in 2009 that will always stand out to me. It’s when I became vulnerable, but also when I became free.