It’s almost marathon Monday.
Nearly 40 South Dakotans are registered to run the 122nd Boston Marathon on Monday, April 16. (Here’s the list.)
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the bombings at the finish line, and I’m sure as runners huddle in the athletes’ village at the starting line in Hopkinton, it will at least be on some of their minds.
But I hope it’s not all they think about.
It’s an amazing race in a beautiful city, and everyone who stands at that starting line worked hard to get there. For some of them, it will be their first Boston. And maybe, like me, that’s all they’ll ever do.
It doesn’t matter. It still puts you in fine company, and the race is maybe the only time any of us normal everyday runners feels like we’re part of an elite camp. Aside from the Olympic Trials, it’s one of the only races you have to qualify for. For me, I worked hard to make it, and I know what it feels like for those folks out there.
It’s an interesting week, and I was thinking about it this past Saturday, when I used the Chilly Cheeks 10-miler as a training run. I ran with my friend Kristina, and we chatted most of the way. I fell back a bit with a few miles to go, just feeling lazy, and she held up until I caught her again. It was an act of kindness she didn’t need to do, but like me, she was just out enjoying the day.
I don’t train to race anymore, and I tell myself it’s because I’m lazy. Maybe I just don’t think I’ll ever run what I used to, and it’s easier to say that than to actually put in the work and know for sure. I’ll leave that answer to my therapist, or to a long run in the woods, or maybe it’s best to just not think that hard about it.
Either way, on Saturday, the race was an out-and-back on the bike path. I love that because you can see the front-runners after the turn. It always feels good call out a “nice work” to someone fighting for first, or the first-place woman, or anyone else ahead of you. And then later in the race, as we caught up to the back of the walk and other races, it was awesome to be able to say “nice work” to someone completing a 5K or 1-mile walk.
Because we’re all out there, doing the best we can, and I love it.
I love kids holding signs that talk about how awesome their mom is. I love giving high-fives to kiddos. A friend of mine commented on how many different age groups were pretty well represented on Saturday.
Because this is a lifelong sport, if you play your cards right.
Because you can start out racing it, then turn it into whatever you want. For me, it’s straight endurance lately, and honestly mostly just time outside. For someone else, it might be entering their first race. Or doing a 1-mile walk with their sister. Or trying a run-walk method for the first time.
My friend ran her first half-marathon last year, and she was giddy. When was the last time you were truly giddy about running?
Let’s not lose that. That’s how the loneliness of the long-distance runner can be communal again. It’s passing the woman walking and telling her she’s doing great. Or the older guy with a clearly labored gait. Or being passed by half the field and feeling pure joy for them.
And that’s how I’ll feel on Monday, as I refresh and refresh and refresh my feed, watching the people I know as they compete in Boston.
Any starting line is a good starting line.
And when it comes to your own life, all the finishes are historic.
Good luck, runners.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear every other Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.