1. 30 April 2013

    Final Thoughts

    The epic journey to Boston is over. 18 weeks of training on the Great Mountain is now a fading memory. Our time in and around Boston was amazing. I reconnected with family that I knew as a boy and had lost with time and life's daily challenges. I went home to my birthplace to celebrate. Celebrate the achievement of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, celebrate family, and celebrate life. I went to face the formidable challenge of making my personal goal of running a 3:30
    marathon, a challenge I would fail to meet.
    We went to a funeral for my Great Uncle Joe Bannon in Watertown of all places just two days before the race. The service was somber but the time I spent with my cousins was priceless.
    My cousin Kathy drove me to Hopkinton on race day. I had spent the night with her and husband Al in Marlborough the night before the race. I was dropped at the start around 7am. My time before the start was spent just relaxing and taking in the sites and sounds of a festive joyous event. I was surprised by how few runners were hanging around in the town square. Most were up at the athletes' village waiting to march the half mile to the start of the race. I went there just to drop my bag shortly before my start time. I peeled of my layers of warm ups and gave my bag to the volunteer at the bus with my bib number range and walked back toward the square. The porta potty lines at the village were long, but at the parking lot near the start were rows of mostly unused porta potties so I used one of those. I went back to the square and began to stretch. As I did the race was beginning for the first heats. The chariots went first, the Push-Rim Wheelchairs. They were followed by the Handcycles, then the elites (women then the men), and then the waves. I stayed by the start as I hadn't decided whether to go with my wave or jump back to the third wave. I decided to go where I was placed, wave 2, coral 9. I was in the back of the pack, but wanted to start slow, so the sea of runners in front of me would act like a brake. I walked into my coral at the back and immediately started to make my way forward. My planned pace was much faster then my qualifying time so if I could work my way closer to runners with my intended pace it would go a lot smoother for me through the course.
    I had taken my coach's advice and had 'MARK' across my shirt in bold iron on letters. It paid off immediately as the announcer in the booth at the start proclaimed 'there's Mark' as I crossed the starting line. Coach was right, I would gain energy from the crowd as I must have heard 'go Mark' hundreds of times over the course. My splits were near perfect for the first 20 miles. People lined the course the entire race, this truly is a unique event unlike anything I've ever experienced. I felt good overall through the first half marathon. I was taking in the crowds and one thing that stood out for me was all the children with there little hands out looking for 'high five's' from the runners. I must have touched dozens of little hands as I went along. That would impact me in a big way later on. I was taking fluid every other mile for the first half, then started taking water and Gatorade every mile, though I only took small sips from each cup. By mile 16 I was feeling a little fatigued but not concerned. I made the turn that went over the 95 freeway and knew this was the start of the ascents. I took the hills at slightly slower pace, running about 8:20's and a 9:00 at Heartbreak, but still felt good, thighs burning a bit but not bad. Then it happened. In front of Boston College at mile 20, just past Heartbreak Hill my right hamstring sprung. I went down with immediate and excruciating pain. I knew immediately that my aspiration for a 3:30 finish time was not going to happen. It seemed like an eternity that I laid on the ground trying to work out the cramp. My thoughts now turned to whether I would finish the race at all. After several pain filled minutes I got up and stepped back onto Commonwealth Ave. Uncertain, concerned and worried, three sensations you don't want to have at mile 20 of a 26.2 mile race. Would I even finish? I managed to go from a walk to a jog, a jog to a slow run. Pain and concern had become my focus. The cheers from the crowds 'Go Mark' now had a new meaning, they were no longer celebratory but now oh so needed calls to push forward and finish this. I heard someone say, 'There's the Citco sign', the runners mark for one mile to go. It was still very distant. My struggle would continue. At mile 24 my left hamstring pulled. I would have to stop and endure the excruciating pain two more times with this injury. But I'd come 4 miles with the right, I tried to convince myself that this was not going to stop me from at least finishing. As I came down Boylston St. The crowd was roaring. It was as though they knew my struggles and were carrying me to the finish with there voices. It was awe inspiring. I felt defeated in my time, yet relieved to have finished. As I crossed the line I had no idea of my finish time. It ended not being my best or worst finish time.
    In retrospect it was good enough to qualify me for next years race if I choose to. My pre-race decision was that if I couldn't attain a 3:30 finish time or close to it that I wouldn't come back. But now there is another reason to go back. When the blasts went off at 2:50pm it changed everything. I crossed the line at 2:09. 41 minutes later 3 people would be dead, murdered by haters if our nation and a our way of life. Hundreds would be seriously injured, scarred for life. This is not over. To the people of Boston, to my family, to the BAA, to our heroes, those first responders who risked there lives for our safety, it's not over.
    Two days ago my coach and I went to the Houston Dynamo's soccer match in Compass Stadium. There are no coincidences in like. It was deemed 'First Responder's Day to honor the heroes of the Boston and West Texas tragedies of recent days. At halftime they introduced a number of those First Responser Heroes, including one of Boston's Finest, one of the officers who sprung to action right after the blasts, gun drawn, who was depicted in the now famous photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the one with the marathoner down and three officers running urgently to secure Boylston St. as the turmoil unfolded. The picture in this post is our meeting after the game. We talked about where we were and what we saw, and in the end we determined that we would meet again at the finish line of the 118th Boston Marathon, Lord willing I will be there, this time wearing the distinctive yellow jersey of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
    Until the the memory of 8 year old Martin William Richard will be with me. Margie and I went to Dorchester Tuesday night after the race for a candlelight vigil for Martin and the Richard family. There we met some of their neighbors, the O'Sullivan's, and gave them a stone we'd bought with an engraved cross with the words 'Beloved Son' engraved on it to present to the family. Words, flowers, gifts, will not bring back Martin, or return his little sister's leg, or heal the injuries to Mrs. Richard. Time will soften the pain but never eliminate it. We can only surround this family and the families or all the others who were injured or lost with our love and our prayers. We can remember them and honor them by pressing forward. Stay strong, Boston Strong...

  2. 17 April 2013

    Last Night in Boston

    Today was our last full day here in the city of the Red Sox. We spent most of the day at Gillette Field, home of the Patriots. We are still getting hand shakes, hugs and tears from people we meet, folks who recognized my distinctive blue and yellow jacket, stopping to ask if I was able to finish the marathon, and hearing stories of people who were right at ground zero but moved away only moments before the blasts. One young man, Daniel, came out of his booth not even sure why, just needed to hear our story and offer a sympathetic word to encourage us. The memories are deep and we will hold them close to our hearts for a long time to come. The 117th Boston Marathon will go down in history as a light to the world of the courage and resolve of this great city and its people, people I was humbled to be around and who this week inspired me, a nation, and the world. The BAA has already announced the date for the 118th marathon, way to go Boston, thank you for your resolve and your courage. I love this city and I love all of you. Be one, stay strong.

  3. 16 April 2013

    The Richard's of Dorchester

    Tonight we attended the candlelight vigil in Dorchester MA. for the Richard family. There are no words that can express the enormous loss this family is having to go through, or the suffering and pain that is at this moment being lived through. Their lives will never be the same.
    For me personally, the fresh memories of the literally thousands of young children that lined the 26.2 miles of the marathon route will be forever etched in my mind. I must have touched dozens if not hundreds of little hands as I ran past them. I would be perhaps one of the last runners that little Martin Richard would ever see.
    Before we began our drive up to Dorchester we stopped and bought an engraved stone that had a cross and the words 'Beloved Son', and an American flag. When we arrived for the vigil we met a couple who lived in the neighborhood. I presented the stone to the man, James, who said that he would get the stone to the Richard's home. We stood in the crowd and listened to the speakers, held up the flag, and after the service we walked around this park by St. Ann's Church. As we walked around the back of the park we sat in bleachers and listened to 'Amazing Grace' being played by a local with an accordion on his chest. He played for several minutes, and as he played we watched several children running about, praying for God's hand to touch and heal this broken hearted community.