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Lessons from Boston

Mile five.

It was only mile five of the 26.2 miles that stretched out from Hopkinton to Boylston street and every part of me knew that this day was going to be a fight to the end. I knew I would have to dig deeper within myself than ever before and test limits that I wasn’t prepared to test.

I had surely underestimated the high heat warnings given to us in Boston on this Patriot’s Day 2012. The forecast called for high 80 or 90s after months of training in 40 and 50 degree weather. We were told to use caution, to consider not running, and to SLOW DOWN if we were to run at all. For the first time in the history of the Boston Marathon, runners were even offered an automatic deferment if they didn’t start the race. To some, this chance to save their Boston race experience for another year was worth the bite, but most of us were determined to run the race that we had worked so hard for. I knew I wouldn’t defer. And despite all the sound advice, I knew I would still try to run my race the way I had planned. I just couldn’t bring myself to fully “let go” of the goals and expectations that I had poured so much of my heart into over the last many months of my life.

By mile five, I knew that the advice to “let go” and change my expectations wasn’t something I could afford to ignore anymore. It was just too hot. Everything that made this race so important, all the miles on the road, time away from my family, and dreams about how I would do seemed to melt onto the sidewalks right along with the discarded orange slices and popsicles that were being given to the runners as they made their way through the ninety degree weather in hopes of just making it to the end. For the first time in a marathon (or a race of any distance), I stopped at the side of the road and I cried. I was filled with feelings of defeat, fear, and loss. With my hands on my head, I let tears fall.  I cried because I was scared, and because I knew that even just finishing this race would require more out of me than I thought I had within myself. I cried because of the lack of control I felt. My breathing was off, my heart was racing, and my mind was playing tricks on me.

Before long, the race seemed like more of a death march than a running event. So many of us were hurting out there. We slugged through the water stations, tripping over the person in front of us, slamming into the people that didn’t make it out of the main stream of runners in time. We were desperate to stay cool. There was a tangible tension as people lunged for the last dixie cups of ice that little kids and their parents were offering on the course. I ran through every hose, grabbed water at every stop, put ice in my hat and shirt, and stayed far to the right of the road whenever I glimpsed a rare sliver of shade. Even then, I felt depleted and defeated. My 7:45 miles became 8:15’s and 8:15’s became 8:58’s.

Eventually, time no longer mattered and I felt myself finally “letting go” and just hoping to make it to mile 19 where my dear friend would join me and run me home. This is where hope returned to me and the power of love and friendship yet again proved to be one of the most powerful things that life has to offer.

Making it from mile 19 to the finish was the stretch of the race that taught me more about myself and my life than perhaps anything I’ve ever done before. I learned more in these 7 miles of the Boston Marathon than I would have expected, and the race as a whole left my “life cup” full to the brim. The lessons I’ve gained from this marathon are things that I will take with me always.

They are life lessons worth remembering:

  • We are stronger than we think we are. When I get to those moments in life where I doubt there is anything left to give, there is always more.
  • We are not alone in life. Faith, friendship, and support of others around us will help us get through the difficult times. Friendship is one of of life’s richest blessings. There is great beauty and value in the support of a community.
  • Being REAL is a gift to ourselves and to those around us. When we share our heartbreaks and struggles and allow ourselves to admit that we feel broken, we reveal the human sides of ourself that so many can relate to. We open the doors to be loved.
  • We can always change and set new goals. Letting go of goals and changing expectations can lead to new possibilities. When one door closes, there are more to be opened.
  • Hardships make us stronger. Life doesn’t always go as planned but each new opportunity allows for growth. Every time we are tested with challenges, we rise stronger than before.
  • It’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to stop and be still. We don’t always have to be rushing from one goal to the next. We don’t always have to be climbing and soaring. Rather, there  will be those times in life where we just need to pick ourselves up and wrap ourselves in gentleness, acceptance, and the reassurance that it is okay to just “be”.
  • There are things we can control and things we can’t. What we can control is how we choose to react to the cards that are dealt.

The process of training for a marathon is so much more than just getting in shape so that we can make the distance of 26.2 miles. Training for a marathon doesn’t just start and stop. It changes us. We cross the finish line stronger, more determined and with a greater appreciation of what we are truly capable of. We test limits. We discover the depth of possibility in ourselves and in the life we have before us. Our goals aren’t always reached. And the doors we want opened the most, are sometimes closed and locked tightly. But in the end, there are always lessons to be learned and new doors to be opened that surprise us. I will forever be changed by what I learned in the Boston Marathon 2012. And I am only stronger for it.

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Category: Flight

Amanda Odum Bowers

About Amanda Odum Bowers: Amanda Bowers is a former elementary school teacher now taking time to be home with her three children. Always a passionate spirit, she makes a point to live a life filled with learning, gratitude, setting goals and finding opportunities to grow. In addition to being a mom, training for marathons, and writing, Amanda writes a blog called Runninghood where she shares her personal and candid reflections on running, motherhood and living a healthy, beautiful and balanced life.

Comments (5)

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  1. Raina says:

    What a beautifully written story about a day that will forever be in the memories of many. So much is learned about oneself during a marathon, and in the preparation for one.
    Thanks for your eloquent narrative.

  2. Jennifer says:

    I second Raina; beautifully written and some wonderful sentiments here. Good lessons on and off the road.

  3. Lee says:

    What a wonderful and moving account of your experience. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Brenda says:

    I have always known that you are a strong lady and you value your family and friends. This was a moving article and blessed me. Thank you for you insights.

  5. Thank you so much girls!!