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Monthly Archives: April 2008
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.
I ran the Boston Marathon. I RAN THE BOSTON MARATHON.
It was a long and winding road filled with doubt and puke and cheers and exhilaration and – oh my gosh – I FINISHED!
And for every single Sharpie-drawn poster, divinely drawn Children’s smile, and beer-fueled college-kid yahoo, I say, simply, thank you. Because, really, there are no words that have been invented yet to describe my bottomless gratitude for a teammate who would not let me run alone, a patient partner whose personal fortitude carried me over Heartbreak Hill and beyond, a sister that I literally leaned on for the last 6 miles, and family and friends from all over the country that never let me forget that I could do it.
And I did. Yea, me! Yea, Jayla! Yea, Miles for Miracles. Long live Marathon Monday.
More to come …
Howdy, Marathon Enthusiasts!
Marathon Monday is a mere 5 days away. Oh, the anticipation! I’m feeling ready and enjoying the
unbridled carbo-loading and temporary license to drink as much blue Gatorade as I like.
If you’re out on the route, or know someone who will be, please commit this information to memory:
My number: 23906
Check my progress here throughout the race.
My start time: 10:30am (2nd wave)
Bear in mind, it can take 10 to 15 minutes just to cross the start line!
My (approximate) mile time: 9:30
I should be at the halfway mark in Wellesley at 12 or 12:30 and the finish line in Copley at 2:30 or 3ish.
My team: Children’s Hospital Boston
You’ll see me in a neon blue and orange-checkered singlet with “Running for Jayla” written on the back.
You can’t miss me, but here’s a photo just in case.
If you see me, or any runner sporting the Children’s singlet – scream, cheer, jump up and down, offer
orange slices and do anything you can to let us know you support us and simply KNOW we can do it!
Please let me know where you’ll be watching and I’ll be sure to look for you. I’ll be hugging the left-hand
side of the course, so I’ll be more likely to see you if you stand on that side.
See you at the finish line!
I need your best stuff!
Please, whoever you are, from wherever you’re reading – send a little inspiration my way. Whether you’ve commented once, twice or never before, I’d love to read your finest, most fantastical encouragement, praise, and well wishes.
What would you like to hear the evening before your last law school final, in the middle of a difficult labor, or on the last mile of a marathon? If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that we all have our own mountains to climb, adversities to overcome, and marathons to run. How we handle the tough stuff is what sets us apart.
That which has meant the most to me over the course (ha!) of this training, preparation, anxiety and joy has been the love.
· The love of Jayla and her family who made sure I was properly outfitted for the chilly, early morning runs with my Miles for Miracles team windbreaker and their limitless warm words.
· The love of my parents who made my first donation, listened to me fret about shin splints and knee pain and sweat-wicking gear, and promised that no matter what, they would be there for me at the finish line.
· The love of my sister, who will be pulling me home on Monday, literally and figuratively.
· The love of my brother, sister-in-law, and sweet niece, who’ve sent me buckets of support – from their home in CT and through the power of the blog.
· The love of my lovely Boston and New York City girlfriends, who have promised to show up on game day, intoxicated and bearing (potentially inappropriate) signs.
· The love of aunts, uncles and cousins, who have offered my support and advice of all kinds.
· The love of coworkers who always asked, “How many miles this weekend?” and truly cared about the answer.
· The love of my second family in Newtopia who have cheered on my every milestone and counted down the days ‘til Marathon Monday as if it were a second Christmas.
· The love of my coaches and teammates, whose mere presence has calmed me, and made me feel part of something amazing.
· The love of myself and the realization that much like overcoming 8 surgeries and a lifetime of medical difficulties, this is just another thing I KNOW I can do.
So, my question is this: next Monday, April 21st, on the 112th running of the historic Boston Marathon, can I take you with me?
Leave your most inspiring message in the comments section and I’ll put it on my Inspiration Card, shrink it down, laminate it, and put it in my “Break Spandex In Case of Emergency” pocket. Really.
Thanks in advance. I couldn’t have done it without you.
The much-anticipated 21-mile run was last weekend.
This, the last long run before game day, was hosted by the B.A.A. and set on a freezing Saturday morning, in a sun-shining, main streets and back roads-meandering kind of way (if by meandering, you mean chugging along with hot pink Kinesio tape on your legs and a booger rag tied to your fuel belt).
We merry Miles for Miracles runners began our run in Hopkinton, crossing the official marathon start line (!) at 8:30am and following the real-live marathon course through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley and Newton.
It was encouraging to see how quickly the time passed between “Entering X(Town Name)” signs. We watched carefully along the roadside for the mile markers to appear – some with “Water” hugging the number to signify that the sweet relief of good old H2O would be provided at that mile. (Really – the miles of the marathon are painted – stencil-style – on the left side of the road, in the same white paint used to mark the lanes.)
So, all was going well. Happy volunteers were ringing cowbells and pumping fists, assuring us that next time we passed these stretches, they’d be covered with wall-to-wall spectators screaming “Go Children’s” and offering orange slices.
Basking in delightful anticipation, it was all spectators and slices for me … until Mile 16.
Mile 16 is on Washington Street in Newton, at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, just before the right turn onto Comm. Ave. and the ascent to Heartbreak Hill.
It was then when an imaginary child – overweight and cantankerous – grabbed each ankle, demanding to be carried the remainder of my run. It was all I could do not to shuffle the last 5 miles.
I took a handful of walk breaks – never on the uphills, strangely my forte – and then pretty much, okay, fully struggled the rest of the way.
I welcomed a quick break at Comm. and Center (where I will be meeting Sissy to run the last 6 miles together, when I will be swallowed up by the enchanting glow of Heaven and overcome by the melodic voices of a thousand angels whose wings will blow sweet warm breezes under my shoes and whisk me to Copley Square).
Where were we? Ah, yes, REALITY – salty, sweat-stained temples and ten-ton legs. Back to Comm. and Center. That was where I was interviewed – no joke – by a reporter from WBZ News who asked whether I was experiencing a runner’s high. “Right now?” I asked, and quickly continued, “No. My legs are so heavy I can barely move.”
Not the answer she was looking for. I pressed on.
The last of Heartbreak’s 4 hills found me pulling out all the stops – I mean, ALL the stops. With an overpowering desire to stop right where I was and become better acquainted with the pavement, I first tried some tough love. It went something like this:
“Don’t stop now, dude. Just do it. Run. RUN. No stopping. Power through. You OWN this hill.”
Too mean. I tried a kinder approach:
“Come on, honey. You’re doing a grrrrrrreat job. You are working so hard. Keep it up!”
Didn’t last long. Searching brain for inspiration … got it:
“Do it for Jayla! She and her parents have been through so much – surely you can run a few miles for them!”
Getting warmer. Still struggling. My legs were shaking, my mind was racing (at least one part of my body was), and all. I. wanted. to. do. was. STOP, for the love of God – let’s just call it a DAY!
And then, from out of nowhere, all the panicked thoughts exited the building and the loudspeakers in my head blasted “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the uphill became a downhill, the downhill became Mile 21, the Journey became the Children’s volunteers screaming my name through a megaphone, and the volunteers parted to reveal my favorite running partners – offering high-fives for a job well done.
The moral of this story – Journey: not just for the Sopranos.
Can’t wait for game day.