Monday, April 16, 2007

The Boston Marathon

Today is the day I have been waiting for. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. and downed a few Blueberry Clif Bars. People in my church surprised me with a big banner they made for me. It meant so much and I was so grateful.

I took the train from near Harvard to the buses and then took the buses to the holding area near the starting line. The Athlete's Village, near the local high school, was crazy. Thousands of runners were getting shelter from giant tents. We all had to get cozy because there was not enough room. Cozy was good because cozy is warm. It was cold, windy, and raining from 6:45 to 9:30. I shared one of my dry garbage bags with a woman so she could sit on that as opposed to the wet ground. She offered to kiss me. I told her a warm smile would be more than sufficient.

It was cool meeting new people and speaking with them. Three sisters had all qualified together in Chicago last fall and were running in honor of their mom who died of cancer. A man on the other side was running his 27th straight Boston. Sara, a 22 year old from Phoenix, starting running a few years ago so she could spend time with her boyfriend who was a runner. They broke up. She fell in love with running and was running in her first Boston. A married couple wanted to do an activity together. Their journey to Boston began with a local 5K race in Atlanta over five years ago. I didn't get to meet all 20,000 runners, but I learned there were 20,000 different stories.

About 9:30, kind of like Superman, I went into a port-a-potty and changed from my street clothes into my running gear. I put Body Glide on the parts of my body that needed Body Glide. Not going to go into much detail here. I then dropped off my gear and made the journey to my corral. I hooked up with Ricky, an accountant a few years younger than me from Philadelphia. He had run Boston three times before and was in my corral. He was helpful in getting me to the right place on time.

The start was way crowded. It reminded me of driving in Atlanta during rush hour: bumper to bumper traffic and going nowhere fast. And I got to start near the front of the pack. It took me a just over a minute to cross the starting line and my first mile was 7:15. It felt so easy. I was optimistic!

The weather conditions changed drastically right before the race and were actually pretty good: very little wind, light drizzle, and the temperature was in the 40s. So I decided to shoot for 2:52. I picked up the pace and was averaging about 6:15 to 6:30 per mile depending on the hills and the traffic--it was still fairly crowded. My first 10K was just under 41 minutes.

The crowd was incredible. There wasn't a point in the race where people weren't cheering us on. I knew that I had hundreds of people tracking me on the Internet and praying for me as well. I felt so blessed to be supported.

My second 10K was also about 41 minutes. I felt so lousy all week and was a little worried about the race, but I couldn't have been running or feeling better. At the 20K mark was the Wellesley scream tunnel. The female students at Wellesley College line the road and literally scream. It was an incredible experience running through there. Many runners stop and kiss the college girls for good luck. I was making good time, so I just kept running. Plus at this stage in my life I generally kiss just three people: Amber, Benjamin, and David. When I see my grandma, she gets a kiss too. So I guess there are four people.

I was feeling great and I picked it up at the 20K mark. Halfway I was 1:26:20 -- 2:52 seemed both possible and likely. I was cooking along and passing people pretty easily. I threw off my disposable jacket at 14 miles as I was getting hot. Big mistake.

The much publicized winds and the rain made their appearance and were absolutely brutal between 15 and 17 miles. The first of the major hills was kind of like this: running on a treadmill at a 7% grade for a half mile underwater against a 30 mile per hour wind while running 9 miles per hour. The weather settled down but the hills were just getting started. I did great on the uphills. I don't think I was passed by anybody on the first two or three. The downhills and the last six miles were brutal. My thighs were shot.

I was no longer trying to run 2:52 or even beat my personal best of 2:57--I was trying to finish. I went from running 6:30 per mile to about 7:30 per mile. By 22 miles, my left foot was pretty numb. Not a good sign. I felt like I had to throw up at 23 miles and was freezing. I had a huge crash the last 7 or 8 miles, but enjoyed the experience more than I could ever explain in words. The fans and other runners were so great!

As I turned onto Boylston Street I could see the finish line. As bad as I felt physically, spiritually and emotionally I had never been better. I started to get tears in my eyes. When I started running just over a year ago, I did't know if I actually believed I could do this or not. Thankfully God believed in me! The moment didn't compare to getting married or having a baby or the Sunday when we launched worship at The Water's Edge, but it was so special. A lifelong dream had come true. The pain would be gone in a few days. This memory will last forever. As I stumbled through the last quarter mile, I enjoyed every step. I will never forget this day.

I finished in 3:01:19 at an average of 6:55 per mile. I placed 1,032nd out of roughly 20,000 finishers. I was the 2nd finisher from Nebraska out of 60 runners. I won the clergy division. I don't know if that says more about me or other clergy.

I threw up shortly after finishing. I was placed in a wheelchair and taken to the medical tent. I lost 7 pounds during the race and my temperature was 94 degrees: I had some serious dehydration and hypothermia! The doctors and nurses in the mobile hospital were so great. They took off my cold and wet shoes and clothes and wrapped me up in foil blankets and kept giving me chicken broth. A couple hours later I was almost as good as new. They were true servants.

When I was laying down in the medical tent one of the nurses asked me: "Are you ever going to come back to our city?" I replied as I shivered to get warm, "Yeah, next year. And I am going to run those last eight miles on my terms."

This was one of the great days of my life. Thanks so much to all who made it possible. To my running partners who put up with me, to my church who has been so supportive and encouraging, and to Amber who has let me chase this dream: I will always be grateful. Dreams come true and today I was blessed to experience such a thing.


Anonymous said...


You are crazy and you are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing this journey with us. What are you going to do next?

Carlos and Michelle

Diane Muir said...

You know ... I just feel so proud of you ... like I had anything to do with it! just so darned proud! You've acommplished something huge here!