I was in town yesterday for the Boston Marathon and I spent some time watching the runners as they made their way down the chute after the finish line. Most of them looked exhausted, a few were limping, some were being pushed in wheelchairs, but all of them looked proud as all get-out. They had just accomplished something for which they had trained for months – years, in some cases.
Boston is not only the oldest annual marathon, it is also the only marathon in the U.S. that maintains qualifying time and requirements. To qualify to run Boston, a runner must have completed a qualifying marathon within the past year and a half. The qualifying times for runners varies with age, but if Justin wanted to qualify, he would have to run a marathon in 3 hours and 5 minutes and I would have to run one in 3 hours and 35 minutes.
Piece of cake.
So for a bunch of these folks, qualifying for Boston has been a lifelong goal. Others run on behalf of a charity and have spent the past who-knows-how-long not only training to run, but also raising boatloads of money for a cause. These folks are not messing around.
On top of the difficulties that a runner would encounter getting a number for Boston, they also have the course itself to conquer. Boston is considered to be one of the most difficult marathon courses because of the hills along the route. And as a little surprise for this year’s runners, temperatures reached near-record highs of 84 degrees. Race officials were encouraging runners to take it easy and even to consider dropping out of this year’s race and participating next year instead. Yikes – I can’t imagine doing all of that work only to be faced with that decision on the day of the race.
With all of that in mind, it was hard to not be inspired by all of the people walking by me yesterday. Part of me was wondering why anyone would ever put themselves through something like that; it seems a little self-destructive to willingly participate in something that will probably leave you lying flat on your back on a city street and unable to walk for the next few days. The other part – admittedly, the bigger part – of me couldn’t help but cheer for, and be pretty jealous of, these folks who had just given it their all and who saw all of their hard work come to fruition.
This was especially evident when I spotted a young guy who was limping along by himself, smiling ear-to-ear and cheering back at people, and who passed by me and said quietly to himself “Man, I love my life.”