This is long and slightly self-indulgent - feel free not to read. A bit on the Boston Marathon, a bit on my blessings, and a bit on wonderful people.
So I finished the Boston Marathon on Monday about 8 minutes after my goal time and 54 minutes before disaster struck the area. The preceding 54 minutes had been absolutely grueling for me as a runner. I had gone hard after a goal pace, felt buoyed for a long time by my progress but eventually was overwhelmed with cramping and pain brought on by what I now understand to be insufficient training for the course type and nagging injuries. As, my pace slowed dramatically I was passed by literally 1000+ people. The last 10km of the marathon were a blur and took every ounce of my strength just to finish without succumbing to a walk - I wobbled the last 400m but got across. I was offered medical attention several times as I pressed through the recovery area while at the same time feeling totally blessed. When I finally met up with my family I had to fight back tears - of which I knew not the source. In some ways it was pride for battling through, in another it was disappointment from being so far from my goal, in another way it was just the inability to cope with anything else after pushing myself so hard for so long and finally it was pure thankfulness for having had the opportunity to experience the Boston Marathon. During the race - mostly before the cramping and pain - I remember wishing that every runner had the opportunity to run that course, in those conditions, with that support. It's a selfish experience in many ways - brought about my much personal sacrifice but also the sacrifices of families - as is the case with my family and the wonderful Karyn Crann-Hamilton.
Anyhow, after the race we quickly hustled to the subway, eventually getting out near the parking garage at the hotel Karyn and kids had stayed at the night before.
As we drove north out of Boston I kept recapping the enormous highs and lows of the race to Karyn - she knows what it's like to live with someone who runs marathons and is great at always seeming interested. As we drove, a fairly steady stream of police cars was heading south on the I-95 - we were oblivious. When we stopped in Portland for supper I turned on my phone to chat with my parents and say happy birthday to my dad - which I inevitibly forgot to do when overcome with the hundreds of messages I received about my safety and whereabouts. It was terrifying and touching all at once. As I sat in the lobby of the Olive Garden trying to reply to as many texts, tweets, posts, e-mails, and calls as possible I was brought to tears. I saw myself in those affected directly by the tragedy (one of those families is just like mine) and was overwhelmed with the love that I felt from some many.
We sat at the Olive Garden and ate (I had the tour of Italy) - the kids oblivious to the whole thing. I was still wearing my Marathon jacket which I won't take off for awhile now and a group of three women noticed it. They started chatting with me briefly and quietly about the day - such concern showing through on their faces. They said they were from the Woodstock - Florenceville area, we didn't talk about what had brought them to Portland Maine. Anyhow, upon leaving one of the women put on her on my table and whispered "put this toward your meal" and left cash behind for us to pay. I stood up to chase them down and refuse to take the money and then I didn't - I didn't know if it would be insulting and I wasn't sure if I could catch them given the state of my quads. I sat there touched and moved. I tried to get their name from their waitress but they had paid in cash with no identifying information.
On a day when someone (or more) did something so horrific, complete strangers were making warm gestures in a city two hours away toward someone who wasn't even really affected by the tragedy. This lifted my heart. Our waiter was really nice to the kids during the meal, so I immediately paid forward the cash component of this woman's kind gesture but I look forward to continually paying forward the sentiment from which it came.
Wonderful things happen in this life, sometimes they hold hands with tragedy. I'm fortunate, as are most, that this tragedy didn't directly effect me - it will however propel me to do more and be more when others are in need. Also, if you are a runner and dream of Boston - it's worthy of your dreams and sacrifices.
If you happen to be reading this and know who these women might be please send me a note as I'd like to contact them directly.
- Ryan Hamilton
You can find him on facebook here. This is where he made the post.