We made it

Here is my column from the paper:

I’m sitting here in my living room, with packed bags next to our back door.

Snacks, stickers, pajamas, play clothes.

Big plastic bags for car seats. Travel mugs. Half a suitcase with every possible combination of race ensemble: shorts, tank tops, long-sleeve shirts, capris, hats, mittens, throwaway fleece.

Gels, a watch, an iPod.

My Boston Athletic Association envelope with my official “Runner Passport” inside – which I need in order to pick up my race number for the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday. It’s a race I have been chasing since 2006, when I made my first real qualifying attempt (at the Vermont City Marathon) and failed miserably.

I tried again in 2009 and made it. But an injury kept me from standing in Hopkinton, the small town where the Boston Marathon starts, for the 2010 race. And then a baby kept me from going the next year. More races, more injuries. Then the B.A.A. changed their qualifying standards, tightening them up, and I thought, I’ll never make it. Two kids, getting older.

But then.

Twin Cities. 2012. 3:39:13.

I made it, just barely.

We’ve scrimped and saved to pay the entry fee and buy four plane tickets to New England. I have three sisters – Pam, Kim, and Tracey. They’ll be there – from Williamstown, Mass., Providence, R.I., and Phoenix – with their kids and their husbands. My dad will be there from Cleveland. It’s a huge family reunion, more so than a huge race. My husband, Philip, bought Red Sox tickets.

But it’s still a race.

And right now, as I type this, an ice storm rages outside my window. We have screens open on our computers comparing weather and flights everywhere from Omaha to Sioux City. We just need to get close – Hartford, Providence, Albany.

Wouldn’t it be typical if what kept me from Boston wasn’t my own bad training but instead the stupid South Dakota weather? After how many winters of running through ice, of wiping out at least once a season, feet slipping out from under me. Of coming home from a run and having actual snow fall from the sleeve of my coat – where my sweat mixed with the cold and created its own little weather system in my technical gear.

An ice storm. In April.

I’m so foolish. I thought earlier this month, ‘Well, at least weather shouldn’t be a problem.’ I was stupidly checking out the predicted 55 degrees and perfect in Boston on Monday. I should have looked at our weather.

Believe me, I’m looking at it now. We lost our beautiful honeysuckle in the backyard. My neighbors have a hole in their roof. Our power lines have looked precarious all day.

Jack, 4, and Viv, 2, don’t understand the race. They don’t care. They’re just excited that Aunt Kim and Uncle Steve have a big pool to swim in at Williams College. They want to know if there will be pool toys.

My sister Pam called tonight. We decided we would both wear our Hyannis Half-Marathon shirts when we see each other, from the year we ran together when I was pregnant and she was trying to chase down a sub-2:00 race. We missed it by a minute or so, even thought I ran backwards for the last three miles yelling at her to pick it up.

My sister Kim emailed me to say she has a booster seat for Viv and a portable crib and to ask what snacks the kids love. “Brown bears,” I replied, our code for chocolate graham cracker bears.

My sister Tracey celebrated a birthday this week. And my nephew Tim is bringing his girlfriend to meet the whole family. We haven’t been together in a decade.

So it’s more than a race – that’s just one reason we’re all coming out. They understand the hard work it took to get there. The same hard work it takes every runner in Sioux Falls who stands at a starting line.

And I understand it isn’t all about me. It’s never about me. It’s about us. I can’t wait to see them.

To wear my Boston finisher’s medal.

To watch my children meet their Aunt Tracey for the first time.

To see my dad look at his four daughters, together.

But first I need to get on a plane.

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2 Responses to We made it

  1. Jamie says:

    Good luck in Boston and safe travels.

  2. rrsweetman says:

    Best of luck on Monday! My little bit of advice: don’t drink too much during the 2.5 hour trek to Hopkinton. There aren’t nearly enough porta-potties (or at least there weren’t in 2009), and the National Guardsmen aren’t thrilled when you jump a fence to pee in the trees! =)

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