Boston Marathon 2014: We run today.

It's here. We're ready. Run tough.
It’s here. We’re ready. Run tough.

In honor of the 2014 Boston Marathon, today I’m posting the email I sent to friends and family on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, the day after the 2013 Boston Marathon. I leave for the bus to Hopkinton in 90 minutes. The sun is shining.

Run well, everyone.

*****
Hello everyone,

This email is going out to basically everyone I know…and especially to the many of you who have helped me to raise over $5400 for Mass General Hospital this spring as part of their annual Boston Marathon fundraiser for pediatric oncology services. [Note: The total amount raised was over $6000. If you would like to donate to this year’s effort, visit the MGH Crowdrise site here.]

Until about 3:30 yesterday afternoon, I was envisioning writing to you last night with a few nice photos of the day and a story of how I ran Boston in honor of my coach, Martin Duffy, while battling bronchitis. (He ran his 40th consecutive Boston in 2009, while on chemotherapy, at age 68…and I was only half an hour faster than his 2009 time yesterday. He was amazing.) Of course, events took a terrible turn and many of you reached out via cell or Facebook to make sure we were safe.

We were stopped by police just after passing the “One Mile to Go” marker, just after making a right turn past Fenway Park. At that point in the race, Boston’s signature skyscrapers – the Prudential Center and the John Hancock tower, where the finish line is located – are in full view and getting closer with every step. I was so looking forward to running down Boylston Street to Copley Square for the third consecutive year to cheering crowds. That stretch of road is the best 600 meters in the marathoning world. It was surreal to be stopped and told “For your protection, please find your families and go home.”

Andor, my husband, and I were thankfully able to find each other quickly – his train from the 20-mile mark into the city had also been stopped near Fenway Park. We walked across the Harvard Bridge into Cambridge and Martin’s wife Rusty picked us up and brought us back to our hotel.

I wanted to let you know that on Sunday night, before all of this happened, we were treated to a wonderful banquet celebrating the Mass General Hospital pediatric oncology program and met many of their patient ambassadors. We heard inspiring stories of survival and even got a chance to hear the stories of two former patients, now both adults, who were running the marathon this year in support of this program. We learned how our fundraising is able to pay for several staff positions, including a team psychiatrist, and how our support strengthens the programs offered to families when they are dealing with a child’s cancer diagnosis and recovery.

So Monday was going to be inspiring no matter what. But what we experienced on Monday and today taught me something more: that the good guys far outnumber the bad in this world. The first responders, I am told, worked miracles on Boylston Street to tend to the wounded. The MGH staff called us within two hours to make sure we were safe and accounted for. Many friends reached out with offers of places to stay. The Boston Athletic Association kept in touch with runners and let us know where we could go today to pick up our bags. And when we got there, we received our finishers’ medals – and lunch donated by local restaurants – and grief counselors if we wanted to talk – and therapy dogs (everyone should have a visit from a therapy dog at least once in their lifetime – I got to spend a few minutes with an adorable golden Labrador retriever whose name, I think, was Charlie) – and a handshake and chat with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who was there to thank volunteers from the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the B.A.A. and the military and police.

And to top it all off, we got a great email from Tom Grilk, the executive director of the B.A.A., telling us that Boston was strong, that we would heal, that law enforcement would do everything possible to find the perpetrators of this heinous crime – and that the 118th Boston Marathon would most definitely be held in 2014.

Some of you saw a short story on Seattle’s KING 5 today in which I was interviewed. What didn’t make the cut for the story was what I said when asked if I would come back to Boston to run here again. Here’s what I said: “I would sign up tomorrow if I could. I would run the whole race again tomorrow if I could. You better believe I’ll be back next year.”

And I will. This city will heal. I thought of all of you as I was running and especially afterwards, as I tried as much as I could to respond to all of your calls, texts, and Facebook messages.

Thank you for becoming a part of my running family. Thank you for honoring the life of Martin Duffy, an extraordinary runner and human being, by donating in his honor to support kids’ cancer services at MGH. Thank you for listening to me talk about running, a sport that I love dearly despite my flat feet and complete lack of real athletic talent. Martin once told me that the marathon is a metaphor. It’s true. It’s a symbol for every endeavor in life that takes a tremendous effort to achieve. Nobody phones in a marathon. What is the marathon in your life that you dream of achieving?

Please take time this week to really think about what you most dream of doing in life, and make a plan for doing it. (And take a few minutes to make a plan for what you would do in an emergency such as this – we were very lucky that I had given Andor a jacket for me and that my cell phone battery didn’t give out, even though it came close.) I hope that you have time to spend with your families, to make plans for the unspeakable (we will be making sure to have adequate disability insurance, for example), and to honor the lives lost yesterday in Boston by living life to the fullest.

At the Champions Breakfast on Saturday morning held by the BAA honoring the race’s former greats, 1968 Boston Marathon winner Amby Burfoot (editor at large for Runner’s World and one of my first employers as a sportswriter) said that for him today “Every mile is a gift.” I couldn’t agree more, or say it any better. I ran yesterday with a terrible case of bronchitis and having not run a step in weeks due to a heel injury, so I knew it was going to be a tough day. How could I have known that just a few short hours later, my challenges would be put into perspective in a way that nobody could have imagined.

Please keep the city of Boston in your thoughts and prayers in the coming weeks. If you are interested in donating to MGH but haven’t yet done so, they will accept donations until June 1. Most importantly, please live life fearlessly and with great dignity and gusto. That’s the way Martin lived, it’s the way we live as marathoners, and it is by continuing to live this way that we will demonstrate to those who would try to break our spirits that we will always rise up, for there is always another mile to conquer.

See you in Boston in 2014.

Nicole

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