“I definitely never need to do that again.”
Those were my first words upon reuniting with my family at the finish line after running the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2009. My mom wanted to get it in writing, already privy to the fact that those words are suspect when someone is still wrapped in a Mylar blanket and subsisting on Gu.
She was right.
On April 21, I will wholeheartedly make a liar of myself by running the 2014 Boston Marathon as a member of Team Red Cross.
Of course I need to run another marathon. Of course it needs to be this one.
I was at Heartbreak Hill last year on a day that broke my city’s collective heart. Within seconds, I went from maniacally cheering dozens of friends to frantically locating them. I fielded calls and texts from family and friends all over the world who worried I might be running, watching at the finish, or have jumped in with a friend to pace him/her to the end of the race—all things I’ve done in the past. Readers sent concerned tweets and heartfelt prayers via social media. Many of you, reading this now, reached out, and I was touched by every single message. Thank you. I was and am still deeply grateful for your support and love.
As the news was breaking of two bombs going off on Boylston Street, I stood in shock with my boyfriend, Dan, in his running store, Heartbreak Hill Running Company. We moved quickly afterward, but for a few moments (maybe it was only seconds), we stood stone still, the blood draining out of our expressions as first responders created makeshift tourniquets for victims a few miles away. Parents wandered in asking for help in calculating their adult child’s time of finish. They couldn’t get in touch. She doesn’t have a phone with her. What should they do?
The Red Cross mission is simple: to know what to do in moments like these. They trained many of the first responders that day, including Red Cross volunteer Carlos Arrendondo, who famously wore a cowboy hat as he helped save Jeff Bauman’s life. They reunited runners with their families and gave food and shelter to those stranded far from home. Before the inception of the One Fund, the Red Cross offered the first financial support to victims and their families. 400 volunteers will be back on the course this year offering medical assistance to anyone who needs it.
The Red Cross also assists with natural disasters, like Super Storm Sandy, and local house fires, whenever and wherever they happen. When last week’s tragic 9-alarm fire broke out on Beacon Street, claiming the lives of two heroic firefighters, the Red Cross was among the first on the scene to help. They come with training, support, blankets, blood donations, food, and warmth. They make it their work to be ready for the rest of us in our hour of greatest need.
Being part of this team as a runner and its yoga teacher has already been a rewarding experience. I’ve run with friends each week (new and old—that is the beauty of a running community). I’ve juggled training with work and submitting my first book to my publisher in mid March, in no small part due to Dan’s support (he’s also the coach of Team Red Cross). I’ve fed off the inspiration and motivation of others, including my brother, Reece, also on Team Red Cross, qualified runners, and countless friends running for other important charities. Through one of Boston’s worst winters in memory, there was no shortage of reasons to bear the sub-zero temperatures, icy roads, and lack of daylight for a larger purpose.
After my best friend Cynthia had her first baby (my godson), she swore she wouldn’t be having another child. I believe the words “Hell, no,” came from her mouth post-labor. Four years later, my goddaughter, Alana, was born, days after the 2011 marathon.
It takes a while sometimes—a few years perhaps—for painful memories to fade. In their place, a supercharged love and loyalty returns. That’s how it is for me. I’m running because I love this race. I love this city. I have great love and respect for the people who supported the victims of last year’s tragic events and their families. I need to take what was painful about last year and use it as motivation to raise money for an organization that comforts and cares for those most in need.
Please join me in supporting the American Red Cross at this year’s Boston Marathon. I am already hugging you tight like a Mylar blanket at the finish line.