Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reflecting on Boston, my trip to Columbus becomes more significant

At the finish line of the 2010 Columbus Marathon, a finisher took a quick veer toward the crowd. He emerged with his daughter, maybe two or three, and carried her across the finish line.

The end of a marathon is the ultimate display of humanity. Whether they're trying to get faster or finish, whether they're trying to beat three hours or six, everyone who crosses that line had the courage to set an ambitious goal and see it through.

Just as important as the people crossing are those on the sidelines. They brave the traffic, and the crowds to cheer on friends and family. They bring warm clothes, congratulate those who make their goal, and are there to console those who missed it by two minutes.

I can only say what has been repeated at length about what happened Monday. The bombings were senseless and inhumane. Why anyone would target a marathon is as answer-less as why anyone would target a movie theater or a school. There are some bad people in this world.

But for every terrible act in this world, there are hundreds of good acts that often go unrecognized. In the running community you'll find some of the most competitive spirits, but also the kindest hearts.

Reflecting on this tragedy, which hit a little bit too close to home, my thought patterns shifted to all the wonderful people who I've met along the way, and how they've shaped my life. The funny thing is, I don't even know all their names.

Me, Evelyn and Beth at the Warrior Dash. 
My running journey began in 2010. I was watching the finish line of the marathon that morning to meet someone who at that point had just been an online friend, Bill A., and we'd head to a meet-up of others in our online forum. I'd also meet Karen B. that day, who is also a friend and has provided so much encouragement along the way.

I don't think Molly B. knows how much responsibility she holds in me becoming a marathoner. Also an online friend, she was there at the finish of my first 5K, told me she recognized the runner's high, and told me this wouldn't be my only race. Then of course there was my trainer at the time, Jason S. who helped prepare me for this life changing journey. Evelyn H. was alongside me also at the first 5K.

Molly's the one who told me about the Marathoner in Training Program, with fearless leader Jeff Henderson and Fleet Feet Columbus. At the first informational session, I met Randy O. I'd join his pace team, and he'd always be there to answer my pesky, panicky questions.

I met Beth O. in my pace group. We'd later embark upon two epic mud runs together. She was there for me when I became single for the first time in years.

My mom was there at Mile 15 of my first marathon, when I was starting to doubt myself. Michele H was the first familiar face I saw at the end. I had trained with Kim B., Sarah H. and Michelle W. all season, and looking forward to swapping stories got me through the toughest miles.

There was Jamie W., who met up with me at 3 a.m. to do my final long run before the Columbus Marathon. That morning she put it in my head that maybe I'd like to be a spin instructor, something I'm so happy I pursued.

At Columbus, there are too many names to tag, but I'll never forget approaching the finish line, every step feeling like agony, and Jeanne B. running a short ways alongside me with cowbells and a pom pom.

Me and Brandie before Cincy.
2012 brought injury. The first day I had to drop back during a long run, Bill B. wouldn't leave me alone on the trail. Brandie D. was my shoulder to cry on, and so much more. When I found out I should go Gluten Free, Kim B. met me at a workout one morning with a whole bag of goodies.

I persevered and dropped back to a slower pace group, where Michele H. led me on some of the most memorable runs. Richard B. was the ultimate inspiration, fighting through as much injury as he has had, it kept me going.

This led to my slowest and most fun marathon, the Flying Pig, with my dear friend Rebecca E. who has also always been there for me.

Richard B. encouraged me to start coaching, but I only lasted a few weeks before I got the job offer in Rochester. Leaving this group made the decision hard.

Now, in Rochester, I'm realizing I need to come out of my shell. I have some great training partners, Megan D. and Victoria F., and I can't say enough about John H. and the folks at the Downtown Fitness Club. Matt S. helped me with my strength training which helped my speed and my swimming and encouraged me to go for a Century, but it's time to seek out a group.

Sara and I cheering at Capital City in 2012
There are so many I haven't mentioned here. Jess F., Deb V., Sara W., and others. But if you've joined me for even one run, I can promise you've shaped my life in some way.

I'm looking forward to returning to Columbus for the Capital City Half Marathon, where I can see everyone. I've been thinking about all of you since Monday, and realizing I need to build a similar support system here in Rochester.

To repeat a Facebook meme, if this bomber wanted to stop us, he targeted the wrong group of people.

Because running is a team sport.


  1. Jess = thank you for writing this - your friendship has meant so much over the years - I love watching you get your strength back and keep spreading your wings so you can achieve your dreams and aspirations

  2. This is a great post, Jessica and reminds me of the many people I have come to call not only friends, but family since I started running. Running, as you know, has shaped my life in so many positive ways. I was glad to be just a small part of your journey. I think of you from time to time and miss you! Wishing you the best. :) And hope to see you soon.

  3. I love your new look too! :)