Never in my 17 years of running have I been more proud to have the title of "Runner". And although roughly 9 of those years were spent using running as nothing more than a way to stay skinny, I was still a runner, always seeking the awful feeling it produced physically in search of the peace it brought mentally. I had no idea that the very thing I cursed and disliked so much would be the tool used to carry me away from selfishness and pride.
In other words, I had no idea that running was going to be my link to God.
If back then I could have had a glimpse of who I would be, I probably would have been brought to my knees in an instant. But just like with marathon and ultra training, where the road to becoming better, stronger, and more committed to the sport lies in vigilance and consistency throughout training, so does my path to Heaven, lie in vigilant and consistent dependence on God. This is so important every day and in every instance. One does not become a saint overnight. The Lord works, tugs and pulls constantly. He places people in our lives both from birth and along the way to get us there. We can deny and reason and try to scientifically explain the events of our lives away. But at some point, we hit a wall and the only explanation for certain events, is God.
I have had over a week to process the events of the Boston Marathon. My emotions were all over the place and were definitely compounded by the fact that my friends were running that race. On the morning of April 15th, I dropped my kids off at school and headed into the little adoration chapel connected to the parish office. I have found extreme comfort and closeness to Jesus in there and have made a habit of popping in to say hello, even if just for a few minutes, each morning after drop off. (This morning, I thanked God for helping me not lose my shit on my two youngest while they were whining and not getting ready for school. I am learning to thank Him for even the small things :)
As I knelt before the tabernacle that morning, I prayed first and foremost for the safety of my friends during their run. What I meant was that Sarah not get sick and throw up since she was freshly recovered from a stomach virus and using somewhat new race fuel and that Suttan's hamstring would not give her trouble during the race and she would be able to complete it. I asked that they felt His presence and that they ran happy.
God answered "YES" to those prayers and to a much, MUCH more important unknown prayer for their safety. He kept them safe from being physically harmed as the result of a terrorist attack at the finish line.
The whole world has read about those events. I am not going to recap or recount any of them. I wasn't there, nor like many others who may have been disappointed NOT to have been there, was I supposed to be. It's obvious that the hundreds of runners who tried to qualify for Boston and run it this year, simply weren't supposed to be there. I am not implying that all (or any) of us would have been hurt or that our families would have been either. But I just can't discount the "what if" part of that either. I will bet many other runners in my shoes feel the same way. Perhaps we are all a little less disappointed and a little more thankful.
I have poured over countless stories of people who dropped everything to help others when it happened. Runners who were riddled with exhaustion and cramped legs scrambled to assist the wounded, push wheelchairs and give blood (lactic acid filled blood :) Nothing about that experience in Boston was all about themselves. At that moment, it didn't matter who ran what pace or how fast/slow they finished, who bonked hard and who busted through the wall, flipping the bird at the final 10k, who qualified or who ran it for charity. None of that mattered one single bit in the face of disaster. They simply acted for others... completely and selfLESSly. What really got me thinking, though, was the 8 people who ran in honor of the victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy in December. These people ran the Boston Marathon and dedicated each mile of that race to a victim or two. In an unbelievable twist of fate, that marathon was victimized by terrorism. The irony of it all is astounding. I mean, WHAT ARE THE ODDS???
After some serious thought, I hopped on my computer and composed an email to my friend Molly. Two years ago, when I failed to qualify for Boston in Columbus, Molly graciously offered to get me a charity number through a source at Livestrong. Molly is a cancer survivor/ Boston marathoner who absolutely loves everything about inspiring and reaching out to others and kicks ass in races along the way. She is the epitome of the "perfect runner". She displays every single desired characteristic... from race volunteer to racing beast and everything in between of what it means to belong to such an awesome sport. She cheers and inspires the humble beginner and celebrates the amazing champions. When Molly offered to get me that number two years ago, I declined. I so appreciated her offer and willingness to help me fulfill a dream. But the dream for me was the qualifying time, not so much the race itself (though having strong family ties to Boston would make it that much more special). And while I have never had a problem with those that ran Boston for charity, I just didn't want to be in that category. The type of bib I wore had everything to do with myself and my pride. My qualifying for that race was in reality, all about me. It's no wonder that if this was indeed the tool God was trying to use to break my selfishness that I have not qualified.
Let me make this clear... lots of selfish people qualify for Boston. No doubt, the field is riddled with them. But running might not be what God uses to work on them. But it is what He uses to work on me. And let me make another thing clear... lots of incredible, strong and extremely dedicated and talented runners who are not riddled with pride and selfishness also run Boston. Not only do I know a few of them (Kathleen, Sarah, Suttan, Rob....), but we saw them helping at the finish line last Monday and now in the aftermath with their actions.
My email to Molly explained that I would like to run the 2014 Boston Marathon for charity and could she revisit her "source" and help me get a number. I have a strong desire to be there next year, running that race, qualifier or charity runner. Next year, it makes no difference. I just want to be there.
This does not diminish my dream to run a qualifying race. I plan on it someday. I keep saying wouldn't it be something to qualify for Boston IN Boston while racing for a charity? I could see that happening. But as history has shown, I need to stop making plans and just see what happens :)
This year is all about the 100 or I'd be back in the saddle training to race a marathon. The mental aspect of racing marathons drains me emotionally. But distance I love. I often day dream about just taking off out my door one day and running all day long. I never dream of going out and racing 26.2 miles. Racing the marathon is a means to one thing and one thing only for me... Boston. What keeps pulling me back (even though I have often said "I am soooo done with this nonsense) is the knowledge that I am physically capable of it. I'd let it go if I didn't really believe I was. I just have to have all the right elements in place and to do that I have to have all the right reasons for it also in place. After all, it is His tool and my ladder.
Everyday, I get closer.