Anticipation, excitement, and a healthy dose of borderline disbelief. Add to that a large amount of gratefulness, and you have the mix of emotions I have going right now. This will be brief, and I’m sure I’ll have a more detailed race recap in store next week. For now, I have a few minutes in between packing tomorrow to board a plan with my wife and girls from Chicago to Boston, where I will run the Boston Marathon on Monday.
Eight years ago, I had never been any sort of distance runner even as a hobby. I was midway through an eight-cycle course of ABVD chemotherapy and running any distance at all was not physically possible for me. Now, I have the amazing opportunity to take my place at the starting line and run the world’s oldest and greatest marathon in the city where I grew up. The Boston Marathon is known as the Super Bowl of running. See, this is where disbelief enters the picture. Running any marathon (heck, even running a 5k was an achievement) is one thing. But this feels like I’d imagine it would feel for a cancer patient to get better, just casually take up football, and a few years later somehow get a chance to take the field in the Super Bowl. Now, mind you, I have no illusions of being talented enough on my own merits to be anything resembling an elite runner. If this race was merely a meritocracy for the true elites, there is no way I would belong on the big stage. I fully realize that. But one of the great things about running and the running community is the democratic nature of it. If you put in the effort and the time, you can participate. You earn respect by making the most of yourself.
And this is where the gratefulness comes in. I am ever so grateful to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for offering me a spot on their team of running cancer fighters. I am grateful to the DFMC crew for running a first-rate program, and I cannot wait to meet you and thank you in person this weekend. I am just as grateful for all of you who have donated your hard-earned money to charity in the quest for a cure and in support of my run. Combined with my previous efforts for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training program in Illinois, you have helped me raise a total for cancer charities that now safely ranks in the five figures. You are amazing and I am thankful to you.
To all the excellent TNT coaches who have helped me through my past races, thank you. Marie, Val, Jim, Mark, Monica, Dick, Kevin, Marianne, Bobby, Mike, Denise, Katrina, and others I may be momentarily forgetting but will add later, you all are deserving of my gratitude.
And to the fellow survivors who have recently stared down cancer as I did, you will be on my mind on Patriots Day.
To all of you, I pledge this: I will do my best to make you proud you supported me. I will not let you down. There is no telling how long it will take me to cross the finish line on Monday afternoon, but I will give it every drop of effort I can muster. This is a paradox of an experience. I will simultaneously be trying to finish it as quickly as possible while at the same time wishing it would not end.
Through the hills and into the city, I will dig deep. If there is any extra gear I can find, I will find that gear and on Monday, I will use it. This is my promise.
On to Boston.