Saturday, April 22, 2017

The 121st Boston Marathon - When it is not about you

This past Monday I ran and completed my second Boston Marathon.  This was the first time that I ran under a charity number and turned out to be the race that I truly needed.

Ever since Nat was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis (NF) Type 1 last year we have been looking to get more involved in the NF community, figuring out how to give back, and simply how to make a difference.  

The story of the 121st Boston Marathon began on December 31st last year.  I said to Amy, "We need to do something big next year. How does a $10k fundraising goal for NF sound?"  She said, "I like it."

Two days later I received an email from Diana at NF Northeast saying "I noticed your new CrowdRise page and running initiative and I think it’s awesome! Thank you for thinking of us with your fundraising throughout the year!  We have received a number for the 2017 Boston Marathon and were wondering if you’d like it and run on behalf of NF Northeast."

I immediately signed on (Maybe I have soft spot for when someone tells me that they think something that I am doing is awesome) and doubled down on my fundraising.  

Over the past week we have been completely floored with the support that we have received.  We have received over $1900 in donations (of which $950 came from my co-workers / will be matched by my company).  My last two social media posts have received over 225 combined likes and the words of support and encouragement have been amazing (some from people we have never even met).  

The night before the race, I did something that I saw Meb Keflezighi do in 2014 before he won the Boston Marathon.  Meb had written the names of the four individuals who lost their lives at and the days surrounding the bombings in 2013.  Meb ran and won for them.  I wrote Nat's name on the back of my bib and it was right then that it became abundantly clear to me that this race was not about me.  For the first time in my life, I was truly running for someone else.  

When I stood at the start line Monday all I could think about was how grateful I was.  Grateful that Nat is healthy, grateful for support we have received, and grateful for the community that we have been welcomed into.  

As the race started, I did what I always do, take off waaaay too fast.  It took the better part of a mile to get out of traffic and settle into a comfortable pace. 

I did my best to take in my surroundings and appreciate what was going on.  I waved at people cheering on the side of the road.  I talked to fellow runners.  I read the stories on the back of peoples shirts.  These were others running for people who had battled their respective diseases; cancer, muscular dystrophy, heart disease, autism, multiple sclerosis, etc..  Some had survived and were even running.  Others had lost and were being represented by a family member or friend.  While one might think this brings on a somber mood, it is actually quite the opposite.  It shows power of fight.  It is a celebration of those unwilling to give in to what life throws at them.   

As a new sense of motivation set in, I picked up the pace.  By the 10k, I had dropped my average to about 7:08 per mile (was aiming at 7:20 by the 10k mark).  I felt good, but it was getting really hot and I was having to stop at the aid stations and drink every mile.  
Pic Compliment of
Diana Flahive

By mile 9, I knew that I had to slow down if I was going to be able to get through this.  By the half way point my average pace had dropped to the mid 7:20s.  While I was starting to get dehydrated and my legs began to hurt, I still felt ok. 

As I passed through downtown Wellesley I began to question myself.  Why was I here? What was I doing? I don't even like marathons.  At this point I just thought about what the inside of my bib said.  This wasn't about me, this was about raising awareness and raising funds to help others and to find a cure.  

As I reached the first of the Newton hills, the route 95 crossing, I decided that I didn't care how much I hurt.  I was going to run this whole damn thing (last year when I reached 95 is the first of many walking breaks).  

As I crested the hill, I began to get a second wind.  It was time to find my friends at NF Northeast (who were supposed to be around the 17 mile mark).  
Pic Compliment of
Diana Flahive

Then I saw the big NF sign up on my right.  I moved over, smiled for the camera, and gave Karen (the executive director) a huge high five on the way by.  I will never forget the smile on all of their faces as I ran by.  At that moment I could not have been happier and prouder.  

About a mile later I hit the next major stopping point on my run, the 30K mark where my running club, my parents, and Amy and the kids were.  I talked to my parents, kissed, the kids, and made sure to slap each and every persons hand on the way by.  With about 7.5 miles to go I was hurting, but I was happy.  

I chugged my way through the remaining two hills and just kept pushing forward.  I had to keep the pace fairly controlled as my stomach was starting to really get unhappy with the amount of gatorade I had poured into it.  The carnage on the course was also pretty crazy at this point as the heat had really taken its toll on a lot of people.  

My favorite part in all of the Boston Marathon course is just after the 1 mile to go mark.  In 2016, the city painted the phrase "Boston Strong" on the the Route 2 bridge which you go beneath.  This is the point in the race that all pity parties end.  I instinctively picked the pace back up.  Any pain that I was feeling was no longer relevant.  

As I made the turn onto Hereford Street I began to well up with emotion.  The amount of support that we have received over the last year overwhelmed me.  I could not have asked for more.  I could not ask for more.  

As I turned onto Boylston and the finish line was in view I regained my composure and began to smile.  I sprinted down Boylston and it seemed like everyone else was standing still.  I don't think I even saw a single spectator on the side of the road.  I was completely in the zone.  

As I crossed the finish line, I raised my arms in triumph, and simply thought to myself "For Nat." It was over, but it wasn't over.  I had just completed my second Boston Marathon, but there was still so much work to do.  Neurofibromatosis is more common than cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy combined, but no one can even pronounce the word.  

In addition to raising funds for NF research, our goal is to raise awareness. How can we cure a disease if people aren't aware of it?  

May is NF awareness month in Massachusetts and NF Northeast has issued all of you a challenge. Record a video, buy a t-shirt, get involved - http://nfincne.org/17782/may-neurofibromatosis-awareness-month-take-challenge/ - We just purchased our shirts (and will be recording a video soon). 

While this was far from my best marathon, it was definitely the most meaningful one.  I am excited to see where running and my relationship with the NF community take me next.

- Scot

Special thanks to NF Northeast for choosing me to represent them at this years Boston Marathon
Special thanks to the Somerville Road Runners for their support on and off the course (Specially to Tina Mack at the hotel after the race).
Special thanks to my sister-in-law Meryl for driving me to Hopkinton Monday Morning
Special thanks to my wife Amy dealing with and supporting me as I disappear for hours on end to run miles and miles.

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