One of many winners in the 2014 Boston Marathon – Niki with the 2 most important men in her life – her Dad and fiancé, Tim who never let her lose her way.
I don’t have any recipe today, just a heartfelt post of appreciation and love to my daughter, Niki for her amazing accomplishment of completing the 118th Boston Marathon April 21st.
For those of you not familiar with this historic race, it is a grueling 26.2 mile (42.2 kilometer) course that winds through 8 Massachusetts towns. Yes, people RUN this (heck, I can’t drive 26 miles without getting all kinked up). The course is considered one of the most difficult due to a series of hills in Newton, most notably Heartbreak Hill which is between the 20 and 21 mile mark, just as most runners are hitting the wall and their muscle glycogen stores are depleted. As a running coach once said, “If a hill has a name, you know it’s going to be a tough one”.
Difficult as the course is, there is beauty in this race thanks to the overwhelming sense of community along the entire course with spectators high 5-ing and cheering on every participant – the elite runners, the wheelchair racers, and many, like my daughter who run for charity.
When my daughter was a young teenager, our lives went sideways when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I know at that age, that it affected her deeply, especially the uncertainty of not knowing how the disease would progress. I had to reassure her that we would get through it. I was incredibly honored when she chose to run the marathon in my honor by raising almost $6,000 in donations for research for this serious and unpredictable disease. We both thank all of the supportive and generous friends, family and strangers who donated to this cause so that better treatments and possible cures may save other families from the anguish brought on by this disease.
Most of you remember the horror of last year’s marathon when bombs went off at the finish line in Boston, killing 3 innocent bystanders and seriously injuring many others. I still feel the chill of that day knowing that my husband, niece, and sister-in-law were somewhere near the finish line but not being able to communicate with them to find out if they were safe. Although everyone was nervous and concerned this year with everyone’s safety, it was reassuring to know that security was tight – snipers were stationed on the roofs of downtown buildings days before the race and police and National Guard were stationed along the route. Last year’s tragedy did not stop more than 1 million spectators from cheering on the runners. If anything, I think it brought more people out to show that 2 sick losers could not diminish this event.
Race day conditions were perfect for the early, elite runners but as the day wore on, you could tell that the heat was seriously affecting the runners with a later start. I am amazed at the courage and stamina of EVERY runner, no matter their finish time. For those who trained in the area this year, it was an incredibly brutal winter to prepare for this event. Most of our winter temperatures were below zero with frigid, gusting winds that made it hard to breath, never mind run and breath.
After my husband dropped Niki off in Hopkinton at the start line, we headed into Boston to station ourselves at strategic spots along the course. I don’t think I’ve seen my husband so emotional – near tears as he said that he hoped she would be all right. I know everyone was on edge and I was worried too since she’d had some knee problems in her training but there was never any doubt in my mind that this girl would finish what she started out to do.
From the age of 9 years old, Niki had trained as a competitive figure skater. We would leave in early morning darkness to drive to the rink for practice. After a full day of school, I would pick her up for 2-3 more hours of practice after school. Many people don’t understand the athleticism, stamina, and strength required for a figure skater to rise to the senior levels because good skaters make it look effortless. Most people don’t see the blistered and bleeding feet when they take their skates off or sit with them in the emergency room when they split their chin open when face meets ice (multiple times). And many skaters don’t have the opportunity to work with a world renown Olympic level coach who does not allow you to give up. If you fall, you get up and keep going because there are no do-overs in skating and the tears have to wait for the ride home.
So was I worried about her safety? Yes. Was I worried that she wouldn’t finish? Never. Sure enough, the knee that had been bothering her before the race went out before mile 5, yet when my husband and her fiancé saw her at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, she was still running and smiling and when I saw her at the top of Heartbreak Hill at mile 21, well that smile was still there. But it was my turn to cry when she got to me, stopped for a hug and said “Mom this is for you”.
I know that for Niki, this marathon was not about setting a speed record. It was about love and caring and doing something to help others. It was also one of very few times in any of her athletic endeavors that she actually had people cheering her on every step of the way. Figure skating can be a very beautiful sport but the dark side of it is the fact that as you step on that ice, for every person cheering you, an equal number are waiting, hoping that you fall on your ass. Although you may skate for a club, you are not on a team where everyone contributes, helping each other out. When your music starts playing you are on your own and every mistake is owned only by you. Yes, running a marathon is a solo endeavor and the elite runners are definitely in it to win and beat records but for most runners, it is a chance to go out and prove to yourself that you can finish the race. In Niki’s case, she was running as part of the MS Team but her friend and training coach stayed with her every step of the way even though her knee slowed them down. Neither of them had any problem stopping at the top of Heartbreak Hill for a photo op with me.
Do these three look like they’ve just run 21 miles?
And when she finished at mile 26.2, yes – the smile was even bigger if that was possible. Alexa, her friend and training partner and John, owner of Beantown Bootcamp could not have been more of a motivating force every step of the way.
Niki, I love you <this> much – thank you for being you….love Mom
And for some smiles, this is a link to some of the many signs that people make for the runners. Who says people from Bawston don’t have a sense of humor?