Through the last six months, with countless early-morning long runs, apparently insurmountable injuries, and more than one oh-my-gosh-I-have-no-time-to-breathe moments, I managed to train for and complete the 112th Boston Marathon.
So, here’s the good stuff: the gore, the guts and the glory of my run.
It was a warm day in Massachusetts. Newspeople will say it was, “A beautiful day to run a marathon,” but I begged to differ as I stripped away my long-sleeve top at the Start Line and moved toward my corral in just a sports bra, singlet, and shorts. Jen, Katie, Kristin and I stood in the 21000 block and did some last-minute stretches, offered excited high-fives and posed for a few pictures before we heard the gunshot that signaled the start of the 10:30 wave.
It only took me a few minutes to cross the Start Line. The next two or three miles were very crowded and I could tell all the runners were stoked to be let out of their cages because the pace was very quick. Only a few miles in, Kristin and I lost Jen and Katie (you go, girls!). We moved through the next 7 or so miles with few glitches, and realized we were running a bit too fast at the 10K, so we decided to take it down a step.
We saw Kristin’s parents at the Framingham train station, which fueled us for the next few miles until we saw my entire family – Lisa, Kelly, and all the kids, Mum, Dad, Stevie, Kerri, and Caroline, and Mrs. Mac and Linda – screaming and wildly waving their Kerrys on a stick! No joke, Kerri had lovingly cut and pasted 50 of my likenesses (a photo blown-up, life-sized, and glued to a tongue depressor) and handed them out to everyone standing around them.
There were tons of people I had never even met before holding my “face” and screaming my name. It was unbelievable. I am not exaggerating when I say that no other runner had a display like mine. And I ran the whole thing. 26.2 miles. Whew. And we’re not even halfway there.
At the halfway mark, in Wellesley Center, the Miles for Miracles cheering station became visible. First I saw Jay, who held Jayla in his arms, and then I saw Jenn, jumping up and down and squealing, “Go Kerry!” The poster she held said, “Thank you for running for us. We luv you!” It was the biggest rush. It was inspiring to see the little miracle for whom I was running.
I began to feel woozy just after the half-mark, my stomach full-to-the-brim with liquid, but my mouth dying for a little hydration. Kristin and I took short walk breaks at every water station and endeavored up Heartbreak Hill. I spotted Lala, Heather, Suzanne and all the kids right about where I could have veered a few yards off course and headed home. Their signs were blue and orange checkered, just like the Children’s singlets, and their smiles would fuel me for the toughest miles of my marathon.
This, for me, is where the real trouble began. With every step, my stomach lurched and with Kristin’s help, I made it to Mile 20/Center Street, where I saw Greg and Maria jumping up and down like fools, and my sissy, who carried me home. As we continued up Heartbreak Hill, I looked at Colleen and sternly declared, “WALKING,” and walk we did, interspersed with a few spurts of power so I could at least run up part of Heartbreak Hill.
After much prodding, Kristin headed off to finish on her own. Before she ran ahead, she said, “You WILL finish this.” I knew I would too.
Here’s the fun part. Between BC Main gate and the Finish Line in Copley Square, I vomited, I would say, seven or eight times. It didn’t feel bad; it was actually quite a relief. I found a few spots along Comm. Ave., just past my alma mater (where there were some pretty good “Go BC” cheers) where I could have a bit of space. You know, for the puking and all.
Not to get too graphic (but, hold on, this is where it gets good), it was ALL liquid. Bright yellow. The sheer volume of it and the speed at which it “exited the building” was shocking. One of the best moments of my day came somewhere in Cleveland Circle, just past my beloved Mary Ann’s, when I, um, pulled over toward the middle of Comm. Ave. and lost my lunch. Without pause, a college student, both lovely and quite drunk, tentatively said, “Boot and rally?”
I decided to walk on, as there was absolutely NOTHING that would stop me from finishing for Jayla. The crowd loved this and decided I might need a little more encouragment, so they started chanting, quietly first, and then louder as it caught on: “Boot and rally! Boot and rally! Boot and rally”
That old phrase took on a whole new meaning as I forged ahead, just in time to see my girlfriends in Coolidge Corner, holding hilarious signs, one that said, “Do it for J.Lo (Jayla)!” and another that said something about cheetas. It was phenomenal to see my girls, many of whom had run marathons of their own.
Now to my favorite part of the race: Kenmore Square. The road narrowed from the depths of the crowds and I could no longer hear myself whimpering because the chants of “Run, Kerry, Run!” (spurred on by Colleen’s perfectly inscribed shirt, complete with arrow pointing to me) were just. so. loud. I have never experienced encouragement like this. There were hundreds of students (intoxicated, but whatever), SCREAMING for me to “Run, Kerry, Run!” I could feel the energy and I knew just what to do to make them scream louder.
The noise DOUBLED. To me, the applause, screams, woo-hoos and hollering sounded even louder than the celebration in those same streets when the Red Sox won the World Series. This was my grand slam and I was rounding home.
As a woozy, teetering me leaned on a inspirational and stalwart Colleen, we took it, step by step to the Finish Line. Sometimes walking. Sometimes running. But, always with a smile. As I rounded the corner to Hereford Street, I saw Colleen’s friends and as they screamed my name I vowed I would finish this race running.
The sun shone beautifully on Boylston Street as I heard Brian and Linda cheering me on and smiled big for a pic. I saw the Finish Line sign and smiled bigger than I ever have, as I rode the glory train for the last “point two”.
The cheering never ceased and it was all a blur of pure delight until I heard (out of my LEFT ear) my dad say, with absolute conviction: “Run, Kerry, RUN!” And I did. All the way to the Finish Line.
And there it was: my very own marathon, complete with Hammer Gel and Blue Gatorade, icicle hair and salt-stained ball caps, shin splints and runner’s highs, permanent marker on my arms and blood blisters on my toes, every step up Heartbreak and every rotation on the Elliptical, every Heaven-bound tear of joy and agony-filled tear of despair, every struggle, every victory, every single moment of fundraising, training, and running. And it was glorious.
Two days before the marathon, I was interviewed by a documentary film student on the corner of Boylston and Clarendon, almost exactly where I would cross the Finish Line two days later. The film’s topic was happiness and I could hear my dad say, “They sure chose the right person to speak to,” as I answered the filmmaker’s questions.
Q: Are you happy?
A: Because I’m doing something amazing. I am doing something that is pure, unadulterated joy. Every step I’ve taken has been in the name of an organization that once helped me and now, I am thrilled to be helping them. I am running for Children’s Hospital because I am a success story. I had seven ear surgeries between the ages of three and twenty-two at Children’s and I had surgery just this fall at Mass Eye & Ear to restore hearing – and it worked! I thought, if I can elect to have surgery, and have my family and friends rally around me, then maybe, just maybe, another miracle can happen. In recovery from my surgery, I took to the roads and felt a new confidence – like, I can do anything. Even run a marathon. And then I signed up, trained with an awesome team, and raised tons of money for Children’s through an unbelievable amount of generosity and support of friends and family. So, um, that’s how happy I am.
Q: How do you define happiness?
A: Doing what you love, with people that you love.
Q: How do you feel right now?
A: Like I can run a marathon.
So, thanks for the happiness, guys. May you someday run your own marathon and feel the same rush of love, encouragement and healing.