Every marathon starts and ends with a 1000 mile journey – Boston Marathon wrap-up

May 16th, 2010
by Christopher Kusek (PKGuild)

(sorry for the delay getting this out.. I’ve been running non-stop since I got back, figuratively.. but it was important to get this out, so here it is!)

I had the great honor and privilege to run as part of an amazing team (Team EMC – Run as One) part of an Amazing Organization (EMC) to run on behalf of an excellent cause (Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center) and let me tell you, I wouldn’t change anything about what I went through in order to get there.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…  Let’s go back many months and start at the beginning, shall we?

The day was September 14th, my birthday! Oh, and it also happened to be the first day I started at EMC as a Technology Evangelist in the Enterprise sector of Chicago.     My feet were not even the slightest bit wet from dipping my toe in the water, and then I see an email come out “Apply to be a part of TEAM EMC to run in the Boston Marathon!” (I’m paraphrasing.. I cannot find the original email ;))   I thought.. What do I have to lose? I’m new here, the worst thing that can happen is, by entering into this lottery, filling out an application and an essay; I don’t get accepted – Right, no skin off my feet (that would certainly come later ;)) – So I went and applied! And less than a month after I start, October 9th, 2009 I receive notice that:

Congratulations!

You have won an invitational, non-qualifying official number for the 2010 Boston Marathon.

Wow! Can I say wow here? I’ll try it again.  Wow!!! I did it! I’m part of the team! I’m on board to be part of something bigger than myself at my newly joined organization! Where do I start?!

At this point, my schedule is wracked filled with so many different things, but I took it upon myself to begin my [unorthodox] training regime as I would need to.   While my training did include some running with my personal trainer, it also included learning to breathe appropriately while running (a challenge of mine) as well as ensuring I was mentally fit for this task before me.

I began regularly attending Power Yoga classes at my favorite Yoga Studio – Sky Yoga Studio, which would help ensure I was limber, fit, and breathing constantly.   And also took up TaeKwanDo with my son, because it’s good for us, we needed to get our kung-fu on so to speak, and the type of activity you get in there is rather complimentary as training!

All the while, letting life happen – winter happen… and then… as if no time had passed at all, the fateful week was here!

Unlike others who had the extreme luxury of a cast of characters to cheer them on while they run the course, my options were a little more limited than that (Though I did receive a wonderful sound off and a hug at the start line by my good friend stv, so that was nice! :))  But before I was ever going to get to this point.. I needed to get to Boston!

I spent a fair amount of time on the road… more than would be needed, but I was tired and didn’t leave earlier in the morning as I had planned, so this is the challenge we bring upon ourselves!   I tweeted pictures along the way, but more importantly… I regularly tweeted updates of my status, including questions and whatnot to my friends and community on twitter!   The support I received while driving was amazing!   I was given updates of what the ‘appropriate’ speed to drive in areas, what to watch out for, and general ‘be safe’ type of messages.  The marathon drive was off to a great start!   And in the blink of an eye (of a very tired person….) I had arrived in the general Massachusetts area! very late on a Friday night! (I left Thursday evening)

Unable to make the kick-off festivities on Friday at 3PM, I was ready, able and capable of making it to the event at EMC 176 to meet/greet with all of those we are running on behalf of! and let me tell you, this was a beautiful experience!

The turnout on a rainy saturday afternoon was almost overwhelming! you can see from the photos above just a small sampling of those who turned out.    The number of people coming up to us, shaking our hands and sincerely expressing their gratitude for what is they’re doing for their loved ones – It’s beyond heart warming, I’m tearing up just typing this, and it’s been over a month!

The last photo there taken in front of 176, me in front of my car was taken by one of those gracious attendees who expressed how much we are able to do for her daughter who visits the Respite Center.  Beautiful is a word which cannot even grasp the sheer feeling or atmosphere here.    And this video, sums up the extents and effort they went to for us, as we were going to for them.

So, with all that behind us.. all that is left is to get my bib and get ready!

The sense of community in boston resonates in so many ways and the support you get – which I helped contribute to when on the day before the marathon I met a lost Vancouverian who had just barely gotten their Bib before the convention center closed.   Using the power of the iPhone and Google Maps, I was able to help her get the pre-race carb-loading dinner on, and through active directions, a way to get her back to her hotel on the T! Yay power of the internets!    But, the time is finally here… the fateful morning would be before us!

That monday morning I woke up early! (3am – read that to be 2am chicago time!) and started EATING! Yea, that pre-load.. my body knew what it was doing.  And then I headed on the road to Boston to drive in, park and take the busses back to Hopkinton!    It was a BRISK COLD MORNING.  For those of you who know me.. I’m a VERY cold person even in the best of environments.. but even given the circumstances I wasn’t nearly as cold as I should have been for the situation – Yay me? :)    But after the hearty long wait in line at a time I’d never normally be up.. I was boarded onto a bus and headed to Hopkinton and Athletes village. (Did I mention tweeting along the way entirely?   All of the photos I’m using are taken from my Tweet Stream, so the internet KNEW what I was doing at all times :))

Once in the Athletes village I encounter the great challenge of “Where do I change… why didn’t I change in the first place before showing up” These are definitely the lessons learned you don’t normally hear about considering this is my first marathon!   But I did ensure I was appropriately pre-stretched in the pre-race massage area – And then like a lark I headed down to the corrals ready to race! (thanks stv for taking my iPhone and taking that pre-race shot for me! :))

And… I ran! Taking my picture by myself in front of as many mile/km markers as I possibly could!   Let me tell you a little bit about the support both on the ground and in the clouds.    I’m sure some of you have run a 5k or other types of events, where it’s often you against yourself running, keeping and making a pace – And that is quite a feat to accomplish.  But a Marathon, and I cannot speak for other marathons.. but this marathon – You cannot ‘practice’ or ‘prepare’ for.    The sheer on the ground support you receive in the form of liquid (water, gatorade) food-stuffs (people giving you oranges, grapes, twizzlers) and even moreso importantly, the morale boost you get from the cheering, the hand slapping, people calling out your name – genuinely caring and cheering for you individually.   You CANNOT (not easily) replicate that in your own practice runs.   This is an enabler making you capable of things you otherwise would feel not possible.

(I do recall a certain bout/area whereby I was HURTING like you wouldn’t believe! and then a whole row of ~50 people cheered and had their hands up, which sent me into a power-sprint, slapping the hands of every one of them along that run!   If the entire race were lined that way I’m not sure people would ever stop!)

But when you’re not on the ground and have your head in the clouds like I do, you get support which transcends the mere physical.   I had friends, colleagues who were supporting and cheering me on via Twitter, Facebook, even LinkedIn!   People who were sharing my donation/sponsorship link (I raised an additional $195 DURING the race from their efforts!).   These were good friends who would inform me what the official BAA site was reporting as my current pace time, and offering up tips and guidance as I ran.   So as I said.. both of these channels of support… they cannot be replicated – only experienced and truly to give you that kind of extended feeling of gratification as you cross the finish line.

I was fortunate to not have suffered some of the grave and life complicating challenges which others had experienced – I simply had a host of blisters (encountered in the first few miles due to getting splashed by water) and not to mention the chaffing… oh that was the worst, that shall be my bane!    But I was fine for the most part.    Shortly after the race, and I finally made it to my car to drive back home, my body temperature started having problems being regulated… and I’d encounter extreme shivers for the next 12-18hours.  But once I had that aside and settled in, albeit my body EXTREMELY sore.    I got back in the car… and headed on my way home! (After all I had work to get back to! :))

The road wasn’t too bad, I was stressed and strained moving around, but I spent a fair amount of time on cruise control thankfully!  Honestly the worst part of the journey home could be summed up into the experience of the rest stop terror on the right…. Those are not the kind of post-marathon stairs I want to spend my time climbing up/down (I did make it ;))

In the end, I made it home successfully, safely.. and in recovery for some time, but it was an amazing experience which I would do again and again if I could and have the opportunity.    The thought of would I drive again – Definitely.  I’d prefer to have someone drive with me, so I can go nearly-nonstop instead of continuous stopping and sleeping as I had, but these are the burdens I place upon myself.    For my marathon did not start and finish within 26.2 portions of one mile… No…  My marathon begins and ends with a 1000 mile journey, with a little running in the middle – And it is determination like that which will raise your mental fortitude every time – It’s not about me, nor the race; it is about the children and helping others.

I thank all of you my supporters – And gladly still take your sponsorship dollars to help those of the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center, even still!  Thank you all!

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