Wednesday, April 17, 2013

My 2013 Boston Marathon Reflections. Letting Go of FEAR.

Athlete's Village waiting for Boston Marathon to start. Calm, content with where I'm at with everything, alone, eating a banana, bundled up, empty bladder...all is good. Love this race! Love this day!

We all have stories to tell.  They are unique and significant.  Our stories are part of how we find meaning in this world.  Telling our stories allows us to process the many feelings that come with the highs and lows of life.  Our stories come as they do, and in addition to the peace we gain from telling them, others are often comforted in hearing them.  Especially when they are part of a bigger one that so many were part of.

As I sit here on my first "what would be normal" day after the Boston Marathon weekend, I'm feeling anything but normal.  Being away from my running community, close friends, and husband (at work), has brought with it a mixed bag of feelings.  Raw. Heavy.  Confused. Determined. Hopeful.  Even though I don't feel entirely ready to tell my 2013 Boston Marathon story (my race, what happened afterwards, and the feelings that come with that), I know that I need to. Such a loss of words but yet so many words.  It's hard to know where to start but I know that by telling my story, I will find a peace and comfort that only comes doing just that:  Telling MY Story. Letting it out and letting the healing continue.

So much that has been going on in my life leading up to Boston.  A move across the country, injury, a weak body, a disappointing marathon just weeks ago, etc.  There has been so much change in my world and with these changes (although mostly exciting and wonderful ones) has come stress and fear.  Fear of all sorts of things but mostly fear of losing control.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of change.  I've suppressed much of this worry and fear but recently it has shown its ugly head with feelings of unexpected panic at times.  And I'm sure this fear/stress has had something to do with the physical symptoms I've been experiencing.  Whatever it has all been, I knew that I wanted Boston to be part of my process in taking this fear and stomping it to the ground.  I knew it was a process that I needed.  A closure.  A celebration.  A journey that would help me find that spirit within that keeps me climbing and rising above all the stress that life throws our way.  I knew that the Boston Marathon would be a perfect place to gather strength and recharge my own spirit by surrounding myself with the spirit of the marathon...a spirit unlike anything else.  
One that perseveres.  
One of resilience and strength.
One that gives back to the world. 
Again and again.  
By giving to itself.

Boston 2013 was a necessary journey for me in so many ways. It was my third Boston Marathon and certainly unlike any race I've ever run in all of my 20 plus years of racing.  I ran without any expectations other than to just BE as I was on that day.  Each step brought with it a release as I wrapped myself up in an incredible love and allowed myself to run with ease and be where I was at the moment.  I've never had so much love and gentleness with myself as I enjoyed my 26.2 mile fun run from Hopkinton to Boston. I remembered my Boston Goals that I wrote down two days before as clearly as if they were right in front of me, and as I was running, I realized that I was meeting



one of them with celebration.

They were more than goals.  They were needs that I was meeting for myself with gusto.

There was almost a sense of surrendering... A beautiful exhalation and realization that I was in control of getting rid of the fear that has been so present in my life lately as I make big life changes.  With each mile, I let go a little more. And in "letting go, I had more control over this life moment than I've ever experienced.  I found myself repeating so many things to myself during my 26.2 mile run. The words I remember repeating the most were:

"Leave fear on the course.  Let fear go with every step.  You are in control. You are where you are at this time and that's just where you need to be. All will be okay."

It is this very act of letting go of fear and replacing it with an incredible amount of self love that gave me peace and calm during those hours of tragedy that touched Boston at the finish line of one of the greatest human sporting events of history. It was those 26.2 miles of remembering myself and finding an Amanda that I'd never fully seen before that prepared me for what was to come and what is still here to process.  

My Boston Marathon 2013 experience was so much of what I needed:

  • I had a couple of nights preceding the race where I was with people that mean so much to me and that love me so much. 
  • I slept the night before and I was in a very peaceful place before I started.  As I waited in Athlete's Village alone, I was filled with such a sense of contentment and peace.
  • I smiled.  
  • I noticed the faces of the people cheering all around us.  
  • I wrapped myself up in love and reminded myself how worthy I am of all the love I have been given in life.  
  • My body spoke to me and when it said "Yes!", I listened and I ran faster.  And when it said to slow, I heard and I slowed my pace.  
  • I told myself that it was okay to run this race in whatever way I needed.  I noticed my watch but I didn't let it own me.  I was in control.  I was in control.  
  • When fear would start to creep in just a tad, I recognized it, dismissed it and replaced it with love and self confidence.  
  • I thought of all the people that I love the most.  I thought of my new move to North Carolina and how exciting it all was.  I thought of my life and all the happiest moments that are happening now.  
  • I marveled at how easy this run felt and how joyful it was to just run for fun instead of racing a clock.  
  • I looked forward to mile 19 where I would see my love and two of my dearest girlfriends (one of them who ran with me last year from mile 19 to the finish and the other one who was with me  so deeply in spirit last Boston and in all of my races since I've known her).  
  • I let the cheers of the spectators wash over me so fully and wonderfully.  Their smiles, signs, slices of oranges, music, hugs, waves of joy and excitement...I embraced all of this.  I inhaled it deeply.  I soaked it up.  I allowed it to be part of my surrender.  I used it.  I smiled with it.  It was beyond powerful.  
  • I had FUN! I danced with the pack of runners as we passed tunes coming from the sidelines.  A chorus of YMCAs, hands in the air and people laughing.  This race was our reward.  We were here sharing our spirit and taking in the spirit of all that Boston is to the marathon world.  This was our celebration.  
  • I let go of the clock without letting go of control.  I knew I wanted to run just fast enough without pushing my body hard so that I could requalify for Boston 2014 and be there with my friends (and I did by 5 minutes).   And now, in light of what happened, I know even more that I will be there again if my 5 minute cushion gets me in to this race next year.  
  • I embraced the "terribly" happy feeling that has been in my heart so much lately.  
  • I didn't over think.  I RAN.  It was the easiest and most victorious marathons I've ever run.  I didn't run a PR by any means.  But Boston 2013 will go down as my greatest marathon so far.  My most memorable.  The one that I am MOST proud of.  It is the first race in my life where I had positive self-talk and love with every. single. step.  
  • After the race and during such a devastating experience, I have never experienced such an outpouring of love and support from friends, family, and people near and far.  
Approaching mile 20.  So happy and full of love and peace.  At this point I had my best friends and my husband with me for about a half mile.  

What started as an easy run where I felt great with every step, changed for me after mile 20.  This is to be expected with a marathon but this was something I hadn't ever experienced.  It wasn't just my body giving out.  I was just taken over with a feeling like I was going to faint.  This is one of the scariest feelings for me because it isn't something I know exactly how to deal with.  All I could do was slow down, breathe, take in fluids, and focus on each step as it came.  I put my head down and talked to myself out loud with such love and gentleness.  I reassured myself that I would get to the finish line.  I told myself that it was only a 3 mile and then 2 mile and then 1 mile run through Boston.  I looked around me and noticed the people running next to me that were struggling too and together, we proved that we are stronger than we think.

After crossing the finish line, so many tears came.  I cried because of the incredible amount of physical pain that I was feeling in my back and pelvic bone but I also cried out of Joy.  I cried because I was proud of myself.  I cried at feeling victorious in letting go of so much and gaining so much in the process.  I cried because of how good it felt to finish and be surrounded by such beautiful energy. The volunteers, the spectators, the fellow runners, the cheers of much much beauty to be found in the human spirit that was alive on this Patriot's Day.

When I went over to get my medal, I cried some more.  As I took the medal to walk away so that I could find relief from the pain I felt, the volunteer gestured me back to her with kind words, "Let me put it on earned this moment."  More tears.

Making it from the finish line to the buses felt like such a long walk even though it was all right there.  I would have been to my gear bag and back to the finish or to some other area of the city to meet up with friends long before the horrible explosions came if I hadn't been in the medical tent for a bit.  The pain in my back and pelvic bone was just too much to not get looked at but after getting my vitals checked and having a chance to ice and rest, I knew I was okay to leave.  As I made my way to the bus where my gear bag was, I couldn't stop thinking about how badly I wanted to be warm and with my husband and friends.  When I got to my bag, I sat down right there by the bus and wrapped myself up in my warm clothes.  I spoke briefly to my coach to tell him how things went and to let him know I was okay. I told him about how this marathon was such a journey of love and letting go of fear for me. I took for granted that I would be seeing my husband in just minutes.  I had no doubts at the time that he'd be the first person that I would hug and celebrate with.
No doubts until I heard the explosions. One after the other.
No doubts until I saw the people running with looks of terror on their faces.
No doubts until I couldn't get through to my love on my cell phone.
No doubts until confusion washed over the streets of Boston as we all wondered what was happening on this day that should be nothing but celebration.

Despite the fearful situation that was taking place, my marathon experience gave me a sense of calm that I wouldn't have had otherwise.  I was able to reach my husband who was waiting for my call.  Just minutes before, he and my friends had been by the finish line where the explosions were.  They were cold and decided to step into a soup place to wait for me.  It is hard not to think of the "what ifs" as I process this story.  If I had called sooner...If I hadn't gone to the medical tent first...If I had walked to meet them at the finish.  So many "what ifs" but I'm taking the first step of my journey away from the "what ifs" and I'm going to focus on the fact that my husband and friends met me safely on Boylston and Arlington with big hugs and smiles.  Big sighs of relief that we were all together and okay.

As I waited for my husband and friends to come to me,  I remember hearing sirens and seeing police cars and ambulances rush by.  I saw people in panic running away from the area.  Couples found each other and embraced with tears, worry and sighs of relief.  I saw strangers comforting each other and sharing information. Time felt like it was in slow motion for me as I waited to hug my husband.

After meeting up with my loved ones, there was still so much confusion as to what was happening.  We couldn't get service on our phones and we weren't near a television so we didn't know what had just happened.  It wasn't until after stepping into a restaurant to get warm and find focus, that we saw the media coverage.  So shocking.

I'm still in shock.  Things still seem so hard to process.  My heart hurts for those that were killed, injured, and so close to the finish line.  My heart hurts for the runners that didn't get to finish their marathon.  My heart just kind of hurts today as I sit with things. An it will for a bit. But then we move onward.

So many things could have happened on this Patriot's Day. But things happened as they did.  I'm choosing to focus on the spirit that rises above this tragedy.  The spirit of the marathon and those that run, volunteer for, and support this sport.  A spirit that rises above and doesn't let fear win.  I choose to focus on the love and comfort that was with me every step of my 26.2 mile journey on Monday.  A journey where, for the first time in a long time, I took control and

And today, I will continue to do this.

I'll see you next year Beautiful Boston. And our spirits will be STRONGER.  They already are.  Fear doesn't win.



  1. Beautifully said. I think we're all struggling to some degree, so thank you for sharing your thoughts. It's all helpful as we mourn, grieve, and, as you perfectly said, let go of fear.

    Congratulations on such a great race and on a BQ for next year. I hope to join you there in Hopkinton in 2014 as well.

    Happy recovery :)

  2. I was very glad to hear on twitter that you were ok. Can't even imagine being there through all that.

  3. Congratulations on a having such a wonderful experience and BQ without the pressure of a time goal.

    You're can get caught in a vicious cycle of "what if's". I have tried not to go there (I was only a few minutes behind the blasts).

    I hope I can qualify and join you next year!

    Enjoy your new town.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Amanda. Yours was one of the faces I had hoped to see as I was volunteering/greeting buses in Hopkinton. I'm glad that you had such a great race and more importantly that you and yours are safe.

  5. Great post and perspective. Glad you are ok and that your race was so good from a mental and emotional perspective...particularly this year in the light of what happened. Good always wins.

  6. First of all - congratulations, you BQ'd at Boston, and you had a strong race. That is fantastic. But second, thanks for sharing your story. I know God was watching out for you and I'm so glad you are safe, although emotionally I'm sure you are dealing with so much right now. Take care of yourself. XO

  7. I was looking forward to reading your blog. I wish that I was ready to sit down and tell my story. I was stopped at mile 25, my good friends were at the finish line and have there own stories to tell. I am still in a state of shock and have no words. If I was having the race that I was supposed to be having I would have crossed at that time. what if? what if? what if? I am glad that you are safe and sound.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. Reading others account of the race makes me happy see the good spirit of the marathon live on despite the horrific act at the finish line. Congrats on a strong race! May we all not let fear win!

  9. So beautiful, Amanda. Fear does not win- so true. I look forward to experiencing Boston with you next year!

  10. What a wonderfully written post, I think you really summarized so many thoughts and feelings well into this one. I'm glad for you that despite the tragedy you had a race that you felt personally happy about. Something we can't let these horrible acts do is take away the runner's spirit. Thank you for continuing to inspire the rest of us!

  11. Oh Amanda. I loved reading this and I'm so glad you took the time to write it even if it didn't feel like the right time when you started. You really are a beautiful writer and have an amazing way of expressing your thoughts in difficult situations... Tears as I read this.

    I can totally relate to that "mixed bag" and "hurting heart" feeling. As I'm immersed back into my everyday life and as this event becomes more and more personal.... As the shock wears off, and stories begin to unfold all around, I'm just filled with a hurt and sadness and almost helpless feeling at times that is just going to sit there for awhile I think.

    Your race. So so happy for your race. So sad in another token that this didn't get to be the focal point of the day. Something you really deserved in Boston this year after the past few months.. I had 19 miles to stand and hope and pray that I would see you smiling at 19. Such an amazingly peaceful feeling to witness that. Really. To know that you were "loving" yourself out there and using and enjoying your gifts. Damn right this should be the marathon you are "most proud of"!! Congratulations on your well-deserved BQ! After knowing you through 5 of your marathons and participating in my heart from afar, we will toe the line of the same one. The one I believe will be the most epic one ever. Special to me.

    Treasure having the opportunity to see you this weekend. To spend time with you. To just be in your presence. Love you. More than words.

  12. What an amazing post Amanda. I'm not surprised - I was waiting to hear what you'd come out with after I saw your moving and engaged FaceBOok updates but this is better than I had dared dream. Especially when times are this tough we have to let go of our fears - it looks like you found that out just in time. I am beyond relieved and happy that you are safe - I was SO worried - but I am also so very sad for those who have lost their lives, their loved ones or who have been injured. I am running for all of you on Sunday and am working my damnedest to get a BQ so I can run with you (behind you?) next year. Kisses to all.

  13. Thank you sharing your day with us, glad you and your family are ok

  14. Thank you for sharing your story Amanda. I'm so glad for you that this marathon was healing and victorious for you. Yesterday, for the first time I felt a strong sense of wanting and needing to return for the marathon next year. I think it will bring healing and closure. And my time. I'm at a loss for what happened. Why I was so far off my goal and what I thought I could do. I need to run Boston again and redeem that.

  15. I love how you share your deep felt emotions and the way you beautifully put them into words. thank you for sharing

  16. I love the way you express yourself, so beautifully written. I was anxious on Monday for you, for everyone there. Little by little, we will move forward.

  17. That is a tremendous piece of writing. One of the most heartfelt and moving things I've read since Monday, and I've read far too much. Appreciate you sharing that with us. Not sure where you are in NC, but the running, biking, triathlon, etc. community is very strong and very active around Raleigh, Cary, Apex. Hope you're finding some new folks to connect with for running.

  18. Amanda, you are such a beautiful, amazing person and it really shines through in your writing. Thank you for sharing your talent and your words.

    Congratulations on a well run race. Hope to see you there next year.

  19. That's beautiful, so well written. Thank you for sharing how you processed it all. I can't imagine how hard the experience was. I'm glad your race went so well, and I'm glad you may have the opportunity to do it again next year.

  20. Thank you for writing this post. I am so inspired by you as a runner. I admire you as a mother. And most of all, your perspective and how you express all of these things in your writing really resonates in my heart. I am so relieved that you and your loved ones are safe.

  21. That is absolutely beautifully written. Congrats to you on being such an incredible inspiration, but also a beautiful, gentle spirit. Praying for you & yours.


  22. Love you, Amanda, and loved seeing you in Boston. Absolutely love your spirit and soul.

    Thank you for sharing all that you are feeling post-Boston. I haven't yet been able to write anything but hope to do so while the emotions are still fresh. I'm just confused with all my emotions still.

    So, so happy for the race that you ran and the peace and love you experienced. xoxo

  23. Beautiful and heart felt post. So thankful that you have so many positive things to take away, and thankful that you and your loved ones are safe.

  24. Your post is so touching and heart felt. I almost feel like I experienced some of what you felt just by reading this. When the lady called you back and put the medal around your neck and said you earned it, I totally lost it!
    I'm so happy that things worked out the way they did (medical tent, cold...) for you, your husband and friends.
    I know the processing will still take awhile but I'm so glad that you have been able to let go of the fear!!

  25. This really was a beautiful race for you, Amanda. I hope you can look back after a while and see it for such a wonderful masterpiece.

    I was so worried about you and for Jenn and AM and your hubbies. I am so so sorry that events dampened the day and that beauty turned to utter chaos. You are right. Fear does NOT win.
    My friend, I hope your heart feels better soon.

  26. If I wasn't at work I'd be crying like a baby. I'm so proud of you - for your run, for your gentle spirit, for your self love and love for others, for you being you and carrying on no matter how hard the 1st steps are. And I'm glad you are still here, physically unhurt by this terrible thing that has taken place.

  27. I'm sorry you had to experience all those feelings. Unfortunately, i know them too well. Please don't let them take away your victory, and your happy memories. You do deserve it! I am so glad you, and my other friend, Amanda, are safe! Love will prevail!

  28. terrific recap, glad you came through strong and safe. See you in Hopkinton next April!

  29. Fear doesn't win!! Love that. Sorry you had a rough few miles but with all that happened after I'm sure it seems minuscule now. So glad your hubby and friends were safe, and you too of course!