I had the distinct pleasure of going to Boston to support my husband John in running his second marathon there yesterday. The reputation of this event is well-deserved: It's organized impeccably (minus the official pasta dinner--who wants to wait in line two hours for a $25 spaghetti buffet dinner?!), it has tremendous support from the city, and the runners are truly the best of the best.
But the biggest takeaway that I gleaned as a spectator of this 26.2 mile test of body and mind is the tremendous power that humans hold to support and lift each other up.
I moved along about seven miles of the course cheering on runners until I staked out a spot just after Mile 21 at Boston College to look for John. It was especially warm and sunny this year, and there was no shade to be found on this mile of the course. At this point, runners have just tackled Heartbreak Hill, and with less than a 10K to complete, they know the finish line is coming. This is also the point where the body is screaming, and inadequate fueling could leave a runner listless, aching and ready to walk.
Mile 21 is one of the most spectator-filled points in the race. A diverse mix of young drunk students from Boston College, plenty of locals and lots of out-of-town families line both sides of the course, pressing against the barriers with their bodies and with a wall of sound. We screamed names of runners who had thoughtfully ironed letters on the front of their shirt (or Sharpied them). We whooped and cheered and clapped as runners cruised by, but when a runner faltered, slowed to a Frankenstein walk, or slowed to the side of the course, this is where magic happened:
Howls of "You've got this!," screams and whistles poured from the crowd in a giant roar. Runners winced and shook their heads at us over and over again...before pushing themselves back to a slow run, then taking off to mad applause and screams from the crowd.
I viscerally felt the power of human connection and love on that course. It's a wonderful reminder of the power that we all hold to support one another.
One other gleaning from this race: Sunscreen. Always bring sunscreen.