Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Boston Marathon One Year Later

On Monday Lee and I joined my "cousin-in-law" Amy in Newton to cheer on the runners in the 118th Boston Marathon. We went to support Danielle, my nephew Sam's wife, but we also went because it felt important to be there. One year ago we were unwitting participants in one of the worst days in marathon-running history. This year we were spectators at one of the best.

We drove the dogs to Doggie Daycare early that morning. We had no idea how hard it was going to be to get to Newton, where my cousin lives. This year we were not going to try to go downtown. Instead of the usual 500,000 people, the authorities were expecting twice that number, up to a million people. It had been hard enough to get downtown with the usual size crowds. So we decided to stay in Newton and cheer everyone on from there.

Just to add to the congestion a tracker-trailer had rolled over and burst into flames earlier in the morning on I-93 North at the Zakim Bridge. I-93 North was shut down for hours, and one lane of I-93 South was shut down too. We decided the best course of action was to take I-95 to the Mass Pike and then take the Mass Pike to Newton. We couldn't go the way we normally go, because that route is the Boston Marathon race course!

Getting to Newton turned out to be easy. We gathered our snacks, Amy's dog Molly, my camera and warm clothes and headed for the race course. We stood at mile 19, on the corner of Ellison Street and Commonwealth Avenue. It was a beautiful sunny day, and we got there just as the hand cyclists were starting to pass. We were at the beginning of one of the 5 Newton Hills, ending in Heartbreak Hill at Boston College. It is HARD to ride a hand cycle up a hill! I really sympathized with their efforts.

Soon the elite women came speeding past. Shalane Flanagan, the local elite runner, was no longer in the lead by the time they got to mile 19. The eventual winner, Rita Jeptoo from Kenya, finished in a record breaking 2:18:57. Shalane ended up with a PR at 2:22:02, which most years would have been good enough to win, but not this year.

There were a lot of spectators, even in Newton. People were happy and smiling. Dogs and children milled about, watching the rest of the hand cyclists and some of the wheelchair competitors roll past. It is even harder to push a wheelchair up a hill...whew. I know what the runners are up against, but can't imagine trying to propel myself in a wheelchair.


When the elite men zoomed past the crowded really started screaming. Meb Keflezighi was in the lead, impressively so. He is one of the best, if not THE best runner in the world right now, and he is an American to boot. He maintained his lead the entire race and became the first American man to win Boston since 1983. Go Meb!

Then the sub elite runners and the really fast non-professionals zoomed past. These are the people I'm really in awe of. They don't run for a living, and have to train in their spare time just like the rest of us, but they still manage to run sub-3 hour marathons. Its just incredible.

We decided to go back to Amy's house briefly to eat some lunch and shed some clothing. It was warming up; nice for the spectators, but not so great for the runners. The slower runners were going to have a hard time this afternoon.

It was almost 1:30 and I was starving. Lee and Amy carried their sandwiches back to the race course; I don't think mine made it out of the house! It was a delicious sandwich, smoked turkey and cheese on a bulky roll.

When we got back to the race course, spectators in Newton were lined up 3 and 4 people deep. And it was like that everywhere along the 26.2 mile course. Bostonians love to support their runners but this day was special. If the terrorists thought they were going to strike fear into the heart of this city they were sadly mistaken. People were determined to take back this race and return it to its rightful place as one of the most joyous occasions on this city's calendar.

It was time to look for Danielle, but where was she? We had the Boston Athletic Association's App on our phones and got a notice for all of her 5K splits. We saw her pass 25K and 30K but we never saw her pass us. At first I was really disappointed, but there was nothing we could do about it. I sent her and Sam a message on Facebook so they would know we had tried and decided to pour our energy into cheering on everyone else.

Amy is a really really good cheerer. She says that by the end of marathon Monday she often loses her voice. I would get tired and quit cheering, but then Amy would inspire me and I'd start up again. A lady next to me at one point yelled "almost there!" Without thinking I turned to her and said, "don't yell that!" She looked startled but asked me why. I told her that especially in a marathon, mile 19 is not "almost" there. The runners still have to navigate the hardest 7 miles of the race. The only time its okay to yell that is after mile 25! She apologized and then asked what she SHOULD yell. I said to yell their names if she could. As a runner that's my personal preference anyway. It always made me happy to hear my name.

The sun beat down and it was positively hot. The runners that were coming up into the Newton Hills were my kind of runners, +4-5 hour types. Some people still looked good, tired but happy. Some people were starting to really suffer from the heat. A guy in front of me had spray-on sun screen. What a good idea! People were also handing out extra water bottles. I saw a runner with a wet sponge. Lots of runners had wet tshirts - that would be me! The hard thing about running in that kind of heat would be to let go of any time aspirations and slow down to stay safe. I know that would just be really hard to do, but it would be necessary to avoid the medical tent!

Jeff Galloway, my running mentor, and the inventor of the run-walk-run method that I follow, was running this year's marathon. He had qualified at the age of 72, which is pretty cool. I had his name entered in the App as well but once again I couldn't find him. I don't know what was the matter. Amy was able to find a lot of the runners that she knew. It was very odd. I knew they were there, but I never saw them.

By 3:30 Lee and I decided we had better head for home if we wanted to avoid rush hour traffic. Last year, walking up Heartbreak Hill on our trek to try to find a T station on our side of the route, I was intimidated at the thought of running up such a steep hill so late in a marathon. But this year, although the hills have not changed, I have. If/when I run Boston for a charity in 2016 I will try very hard not to get too tied up in the idea of making a certain time or beating a particular goal. I'm going to experience the crowds and enjoy the experience, because there is nothing in the world like the Boston marathon!

One thing I learned this year about Boston. A third of the runners are running for a charity, to raise money and foster awareness of a cause. There are lots of people back in the 5 hour group. I won't be running all by myself back there, and there will still be lots of people out there cheering too. I've also found out that on top of raising a large amount of money for your chosen charity, you have to find an available charity bib number, and they aren't that plentiful. So that's going to be an obstacle I will have to overcome as well. But it seems like a very worthy goal to try to overcome. Anyway, I'm going to try!

Runners Like This One Were Just one of the Many Inspirations We Saw!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Buddha

In Hong Kong statues of Buddha are ubiquitous. There is of course the famous Big Buddha on Lantau Island.

But there are also lots of smaller buddhas, in temples and little shrines. He can take many different shapes and sizes it seems.

There is even a temple in Hong Kong called the 10,000 Buddhas! You can see from the picture why it is called that!

In February of 2008 we visited Bali, a beautiful island that is part of Indonesia. You can read about our trip in my old Hong Kong blog here. In this blog entry you'll find the first mention of a reclining buddha statue. We saw one in a shop one day. I decided not to buy it; although it was not that expensive, it was big, and very heavy. We would need to store it somewhere in Hong Kong. It just didn't seem practical.

But that reclining buddha kept reappearing in my mind. When we returned to the US periodically we would go searching online for reclining buddhas, but they were never quite right.

I wanted a peaceful reclining stone buddha I could put in my garden. But that buddha was nowhere to be found.

Two years ago this summer we went to a Jeff Galloway Runner's Retreat in Tahoe, California. One afternoon Lee and I went into the town of Truckee and looked around. There was a nice little shop named La Galleria that had a lot of stuff from Asia and other parts of the world. It was mostly jewelry and small statues and other artifacts, but there was a large statue too. It was my buddha!

It was exactly right, stone, no pointy head, peaceful, tranquil. But, it was $1600 and it would need to be shipped all the way across the US to New Hampshire. Again I hesitated. 

I had pretty much given up on my reclining buddha dream but this winter Lee asked me, "do you still have the information on that buddha in California?" I did; I had kept the shop's card, just in case. I guess I wasn't completely ready to give up after all. I sent the shop a note and asked them if they still had the statue. They did!

Then Lee asked me, "Would you like that buddha as a combination birthday/anniversary present?" This time I didn't hesitate. How many times can a person allow a buddha to slip away? Yes, I said. Yes!

My buddha came this week. The snow in the yard is almost melted but the ground is still mostly frozen. But I had the perfect spot picked out, in the flower bed along the driveway, close to the house, between two trees. The buddha is extremely heavy. It took me and Lee, a moving dolly, and boards, to roll the buddha into its place of honor.

Now every time I go down the driveway and I see it I get a bit of a thrill. I can't believe the buddha I saw so many years ago in Bali is finally mine! Now I just need to think about what sort of planting would enhance a reclining buddha in New Hampshire....


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