• Emily

An Open Letter to the Virtual Boston Marathon

Updated: Sep 1, 2020

I have been running for fun and competitively for most of my life. I don't know exactly how many races, miles, or hours of running that amounts to, but let's just say I've put hundreds of miles on dozens of shoes over the past 15ish years.

As most runners can tell you, the sport of running can bring joy, relaxation, camaraderie, and a sense of accomplishment. But it can also bring frustration, pain, anger, and disappointment. My journey to the 2020 (virtual) Boston Marathon was a little bit of all the emotions above.

So I decided to share my thoughts in an open letter to no one in particular. But if I had to address the envelope it would be postmarked c/o The Virtual Boston Marathon Experience.

I ran 10 marathons in 9 years to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I was literally and figuratively chasing down a dream for close to a decade. And with each race, I got closer but it was never quite good enough. So as I prepared for the 10th attempt at the top of Mt. Hood in Oregon, I was cautiously optimistic that this would be the race to finally earn my spot in the historic Boston Marathon.

And sure enough, about three hours and twenty-seven minutes later, I crossed the finish line.

I had finally done it. I executed my race plan, persevered through each and every mile, and finished with the last ounces of energy left in my body. I was so proud of my accomplishment and excited to join thousands of other runners in Hopkinton in April of 2020.

And we all know what happened after that.

Selfishly, I was disappointed that the experience I had been waiting for and worked so hard to enjoy was being taken away. But it had to be done. And it was a reminder that there are things bigger and much more important than ourselves and our personal agendas. We are living in a tumultuous time while disease and injustice are rampant. And while we look forward to the Boston Marathon as a city-unifying event, this year we will have to find other ways to become united.

So as I continued to train for a very different kind of race, I had a lot of alone time to think about how my relationship with running had changed over time. I reflected on how it had helped me learn important lessons about hard work and discipline. Running also taught me about sacrifice and goal setting. Most of all, it taught me that I should be thankful for my healthy, able body instead of constantly scrutinizing and criticizing my body image.

And after all that reflection I was left thinking about how many things would be different about this year, but also how many things would be the same as any other marathon before it.

Many of us have been forced to train alone. We've gotten used to pulling up and down cloth masks like we're playing peek-a-boo with breathing. We've had to change our running routes, and battle the elements on days we wanted to stay inside on a treadmill at the gym. There will be no marathon expo, big group pasta dinner, or crowds of people lining Boylston street. So, yes, it will be different.

But, it will also be the same. It will require the same or more mental and physical fortitude. During those 26.2 miles, we will all encounter barriers we must overcome. And like every marathon before, it will whisper doubt, and ask us if we are strong enough, prepared enough, and resilient enough to complete it.

And I ask those same questions about our society at large. Are we strong enough, prepared enough, and resilient enough to overcome these challenging times and reach a finish line where we are healthy and treat each other with respect?

And finally, I want to wish all my fellow Boston marathoners good luck and I want to say, respectfully, to this 124th Boston Marathon Virtual Experience ...

Bring. It. On.

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