“The Thing About Boston…”

The Boston Athletic Association proudly announced yesterday that all qualified athletes who submitted applications during the 2023 Boston Marathon registration window will be accepted into the April 17th race, provided their qualifying time is verified. A total of 23,267 applications were submitted over the five-day registration window.

The 127th Boston Marathon will feature a field size of 30,000 participants. With 23,267 qualified, invited athletes, the remaining 6,733 participants will consist of athletes representing official charity partners, sponsors, members of the professional field, and other invitational entries. This is not “typical” for the Boston Marathon, nor has it been for the past few years.

In 2020, the race was initially postponed to September as Covid-19 made its way around the world, resulting in a global pandemic. By September, however, race officials reluctantly cancelled the in-person event for the first time in the entire 124 year history of the race and, subsequently, offered all registrants the first ever “virtual” Boston Marathon option. Heartbreaking, no doubt, to those who had finallly achieved this dream and were so looking forward to the experience and honor that they had earned.

In 2021, the race was held in person but the date had to be moved from it’s usual, third Monday in April, to October 11th. In this particular year, the Boston Athletic Association also did something that they have never done before – they opened up a virtual race to the first 70,000 registrants over the age of 18. This never before seen gesture on behalf of the B.A.A. welcomed in runners of all levels and abilities, with no qualifying time required. Furthermore, they allowed the athletes from the previous year to re-submit their already existing BQ times for consideration into this year’s in-person event. The overall goal was to inspire people to continue running and pursuing their dreams despite the illnesses and hardships which had befallen us all.

And, while 2022 was indeed held on Patriot’s Day – also known as “Marathon Monday” in the city of Boston, the overall number of registrants and participants was still below average for this most famous race. In the years prior, with the exception of 2020 and 2021, the world of distance running had already come to know that simply qualifying for Boston was rarely ever “enough”. In the past, you would have to exceed your qualifying time by greater than 2 minutes, sometimes even as high as five minutes, in order to receive an actual invite into the race. And this is where I become ambivalent – when “good enough” is not, in fact, actually good enough.

At the end of the day, Boston is still just a race – albeit old and iconic, and put on by a group of people who pride themselves on athletic excellence and exclusivity. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of love/hate moments when it comes to the Boston Marathon. I spent years of my own life chasing that same dream, only to find out that it was actually fueled by a deep seated insecurity inside of myself, as a person, exhibiting itself outwardly as a burning need for external validation. Once I realized this, I was actually able to address the root cause in myself, work to overcome it, and grow. I never did achieve my BQ – even my best marathon time was a solid 17 minutes slower than I needed it to be. But I did still have the honor of running that iconic course in October 2021, due to that never before offered opportunity. I registered as “virtual”, but chose to run it live, in person, on that course, on my own terms, and with the recognition of the BAA simply as an added bonus. I no longer feel the need to prove anything to anybody in any pursuit… but my heart still feels very happy and excited for those who have chased their BQ, legitimately achieved it, and then receive this most precious invite. They’ve earned it. They deserve it. Who are we to ever rain on their parade? Because here’s the thing about Boston – it was never meant to be “all inclusive”, nor should it be. Just like the Olympics are not open to the everyday, ordinary athlete – if you wish to run the Boston Marathon under invite, with a qualified bib, you must push yourself to achieve more.

There’s a time and place for races with participation medals and no course time limits – but Boston is neither the time nor the place for such allowances.

Boston is not for everyone. The Boston Marathon elevates the standards for endurance racing and it keeps those who chase it motivated, disciplined and inspired.

It’s just my opinion, take it or leave it, but the Boston Marathon is exactly what the Boston Marathon should be – the gold standard for all marathon runners. For this reason, it shall always hold a special place inside my heart. And I was overwhelmed with excitement when I read those words yesterday and realized that, for all those amazing athletes out there, working fulltime jobs and raising families, who still made the time to get those miles in and did all the things that most people won’t in order to realize a dream that most people never will, “good enough” was finally, actually, good enough!

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“The Restoration of a Runner.”

Too fiery for bullshit. Too sensitive for games.

The restoration of a runner is no small feat. It requires time, patience, a positive attitude, and a healthy dose of gratitude.

This morning’s disc regeneration session brought tears to my eyes. Not so much because it hurt, because it’s actually a very gentle and gradual therapy process, – but because I let my own frustrations overwhelm me.

On the more difficult days like this, I have to remind myself of the progress that I have already made, and recall the level of pain that I used to have.

The truth is, I’ve seen better days – but I have also seen much worse. Like so many others, most of my days fall somewhere in between.

I woke up this morning with some aches and pains, but I woke up nonetheless. Some days I struggle to get up and move but, each day, I continue to do my best.

I don’t have everything that I want, but I do have everything that I need. I have a comfortable home and a husband who loves me. I have many “friendlies”, and a few close friends. Those particular friends have become closer to me than my own blood related family.

I no longer have much free time, but I make the most of what I’ve got. It’s been a long slow journey on this injury recovery plan, but we are finally well on our way, despite the months of daily treatments remaining ahead. There’s no highway through healing and results most certainly do not happen overnight.

The restoration of a runner is no small feat. It requires presence and patience, mindfulness of the very moment that you’re in, while not losing sight of how far you’ve already come.

Six weeks ago, I couldn’t put on a pair of socks or shoes, move my bowels normally, snap my own bra, or even shave my own legs. Today, I can do all of those things and more. Progress is definitely being made, regardless of the slowness of pace and degree of difficulty along the way.

I have to keep reminding myself that growth is always uncomfortable, and I know this to be true. There is always a period of pain or discomfort before you level up. The trick is in refusing to let the hard days get you down.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“The Tale of Two Flip Flops”

“It’s amazing what the hard times can reveal, who shows up, who walks away, and who’s for real.”

SHINEDOWN, “Daylight”

It was a Saturday in September when things began to change. It was a Sunday in September when I realized that they would never be the same.

If these flip flops could talk, they’d have some stories to tell! They’d tell of love and loss, agony and defeat. They’d speak of beautiful sunrises, friendships, and adventures – moments that I wish could have lasted forever.

They’d tell you of all the fears that I have faced, and one particular journey into a deep, dark, lonely place.

They’d speak of holding on, as well as, letting go – outlooks and outtakes, emotions that sway our perceptions to and fro.

From monumental experiences to monumental mistakes, moments of enlightenment, as well as, deep regret; these flip flops have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly – the most tumultuous three years of my life. But there are epiphanies to be found in pain, metamorphosis to be made amongst the memories, and great strength to be gained through conscientious change.

It was a Sunday in September, of which there are only four. And, on this particular September Sunday, I realized that I was capable of, and deserving of, so much more.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“The Waiting.”

I recently came upon a piece I wrote several years ago about my then current running plan.

“There’s more than one way to be successful.”, I’d told myself – and I knew, from experience, that this statement is tried and true.

I was in the mid weeks of marathon training – when the going gets tough, the tempo runs nearly tap you out, and the all too familiar feelings of inadequacy and angst begin to sink into your soul just as quickly as the sweat drips from your pores.

“No plan is ever “one size fits all”, and no two runners are ever alike.”, I recounted to myself, and for anyone who might be reading, searching for encouragement or comfort.

Now, here I am, deeply involved in the process of recovering from my injuries and, yet still, I find myself repeating the same things.

There is no “one-size fits all” plan to get anyone, anywhere, from where they are now to where they want to be. While the end goal may be written in stone, the plan is most wisely written in pencil – ready to be adapted and redacted, personalized just for you.

It’s been 5 weeks since my spinal surgery to repair the fractures in my thoracic spine and, today, we began Phase #2 of my recovery plan – addressing and treating the injuries in my lumbar spine and sacrum. It’s a daily commitment, as structured as my previous marathon training plans have been, that will span the next several months of my life with its treatments and therapies.

In the meantime, I find myself wandering… taking long walks, getting lost in thought, taking photos of moments that I encounter and beauty that I see. I immerse myself in writing, navigating the process of publication, breaking down old poetry and prose, song lyrics and stories; biding my time while allowing my body to heal, and the lyrics of an old Tom Petty song repeat inside my head:

“Every day you get one more yard,
you take it on faith, you take it to the heart –
the waiting is the hardest part.”

Tom Petty, “The Waiting”

The waiting. The in-between. As hard as it may be, it all serves a purpose. There is beauty to be found within these detours and delays. I’m doing my best to be patient, fully present within the process, but sometimes my consciousness wanders and the road seems to call out my name. In these moments it’s more difficult to be still, as my heart just aches to run.

Tom Petty was right – the waiting really is the hardest part.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“People Say…”

“No one continuously wins at chess by only moving forward. Sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. And this is a perfect metaphor for life. A step back can be a step in the right direction.”

Marcandangel, (Marc and Angel Chernoff)

It’s been 4 weeks since my spinal surgery, and I am healing well. The sutures are almost completely dissolved, all bandages have been removed, and there have been no signs of infection. My body is functioning better now than it has since before the accident. My pain level has been reduced so significantly, since having this surgery to repair the fractures, that I am now able to manage most days without even considering the thought of taking ibuprofen. My post-op followup went well and my neurosurgeon is pleased with my progress.

I am currently entering Phase #2 of this recovery plan – or, as I call it, “the middle”, where physical therapy has been prescribed and disc regeneration therapy is about to begin. These two treatment regimens will be time consuming and expensive, but very important key factors in my return to running.

It’s hard not to feel discouraged, for all the time that I have lost, and overwhelmed at the time I must now invest in order to continue moving forward. The added expense to rebuild a broken body is, also, nothing short of astounding – as is the realization that I am literally starting back at square one, focusing on the most basic of physical movements, in order to rebuild all of the strength, stability, flexibility and mobility which I have lost over the course of these past 15 months.

People say: “It could always be worse.”, and they are not wrong – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard or that it wasn’t bad.

People say: “You’ll get there.”, and it’s true, I most certainly will – but that doesn’t make the road to “there” any less difficult to travel.

People say: “You’ll get used to it.” or that perhaps this is just your “new normal” – but settling for less than what I am capable of has never sat well with me, nor is this mediocre middle ground something that I will just blindly accept.

People say: “It’s important to know your limits.” – but, I believe, it’s more important to realize that you have none!

People say a lot of things – but, the beauty of it all, is that you don’t have to listen.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“I’d Do It All Again.”

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”

George Washington Carver

Nearly five years of consistent therapy sessions has finally taught me that I am not a problem to be solved, nor am I broken, requiring to be fixed.

I am a spiritual being, constantly evolving. As such, I continue to change and grow, and am constantly transforming. This process takes time. It can not be rushed.

All of the things I’ve experienced along the way, the good and the bad, I had to go through them in order to find myself – because all of this didn’t just happen by chance. And, if I had the choice, I’d do it all again.

I know that growth requires pain and sometimes light demands the darkness in order to be seen. I realize now that I had to go through my darkest of moments in order to find, and be able to actually appreciate, my light.

It didn’t happen over night, but today I woke up and realized that my “someday” is finally here. I made the decision, a long time ago, to take the first small step towards becoming my best self. And, today, I am in awe of how far I have actually come.

It occurred to me this morning that what once plagued my mental health, no longer holds power over me. I’ve made it out of that fiery hell that I used to burn in. I took a look back over the time it took to get me here, and all the things I’ve worked to overcome along the way; things I once doubted if I could even do. I realize now how, while going through it, there were so many little steps I took that seemed so insignificant at the time. But now that they have been added together, I can clearly see how they have accumulated to significantly change my life.

I am thankful that I have been consistent – that I was persistent in my desire to develop a healthy well being. I take full responsibility for myself, as well as the many times that I have added unnecessary weight to my own burdens. I forgive myself for the times I fell back into the slums of my own misery… because, every time I did, I needed it less and less. Every time I wanted to give up, and every time I thought I might give in, I stayed true to my course instead.

The measures I took to enrich my life, haven’t always been easy – it is, at times, a literal destruction of the old and reconstruction of the new. It is a diligent, intricate, and beautiful combination of work to obtain (and maintain) exponential growth – but I’m doing it!

It’s most certainly not always “sunshine and rainbows” and cultivating a positive attitude is a must! Not every day will be a “good” day. The trick is to never let the “bad” days win. Even if they show up in weeks or months at a time, don’t ever let the bad days make you believe that this is a bad life. Instead, be an energy converter. Whatever comes your way, convert it into what you want it to become. Not everything is always as it seems. So many things actually depend upon how you choose to respond, rather than how it “has to be”.

So stop waiting until you feel 100% ready because, the truth is, you’ll never feel completely ready.

Stop waiting for the “perfect” moment, because the perfect moment simply doesn’t exist.

The moment is NOW, so take that leap of faith.

Be scared – but do it anyway. Be under-qualified – but apply for it anyway. Be messy, imperfect, and unsure – but show up and do your best anyway.

Your potential is endless. Don’t let fear or laziness stand in the way of you starting a new chapter.

Comfort is the enemy of growth. If you truly want your life to change, it’s time to get uncomfortable. Life is full of undeniable blessings… many of which emerge through challenges and change.

You might lose people. You might lose friends. You might lose pieces of yourself that you never imagined would be gone – but then, without warning, these pieces will slowly begin to come back to you. New people will enter. Better friends will come along. Bigger opportunities will present themselves. Pretty soon you’ll wake up in the morning to find a stronger, wiser YOU is staring back in the mirror and, in this moment, you’ll look back on your journey and be thankful that you didn’t give up on yourself.

Even on my worst days, I’m grateful for the passions that are innately imbedded in my soul because, no matter how steep my challenges may be, they motivate me to show up and try again tomorrow. And, if I had the choice, I’d do it all over again. Because I know now exactly where this path will lead – to this very moment, right here, right now. Because my whole life began to change, when I finally decided to change my own life.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“[dis]Connected.”

I withdraw from people and places from time to time, I need space from a world that is filled with millions of mouths that talk too much, but never have anything to say.”

Kaitlin Foster
I disappear from time to time. I do that sometimes.

Growing up, I often enjoyed playing by myself. As a teenager, I required a lot of time alone or I would become agitated and moody, overstimulated and unable to control my emotions.

My dad used to say that I was anti-social. He addressed this particular behavior frequently, as if it was a character flaw. He portrayed my desire for solitude in a very negative light, calling it unnatural, as if there was something wrong with it – or with me, for enjoying it so much.

As a young, impressionable personality, experiencing a very vulnerable and influential period of my life, it was practically impossible for me not to believe him.

As an adult, however, I now realize that the thoughts and feelings my father expressed towards me at that time were actually, in fact, a projection of his own inner turmoil.

Could it have been because he witnessed the same “anti-social” behaviors in his younger brother, who ultimately murdered a man and is now serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison?

Perhaps.

Could the pressure he placed upon me to get out of my room and to constantly be engaged with other people actually be his projection of fear and guilt regarding his own inability to help his brother before it was all too late?

Possibly.

The truth is, we’ll never truly know. What I do know now though is that there is absolutely nothing “wrong” with me and I am not, in any sense of the word, “anti-social”.

It’s true, though, I do withdraw from people and places from time to time – sometimes, for quite a long time. As an adult who has become well-versed in the workings of my soul, I realize that I frequently need to detach myself from all the energies and emotions in this world that are not mine. I am not responsible for the opinions or beliefs of others and I no longer hold myself accountable for how someone chooses to perceive things, or me, because of it. I refuse to address negativity that is not mine and uncovering the root cause of this in others is not my responsibility. I am, by nature, an empathetic being – maintaining my balance requires a certain level of detachment. I am now very conscious of this, therefore, I choose to protect my energy, and doing so requires time alone – away from all the “noise”.

It’s true, there are times when I feel a bit “disconnected”- but it helps to realize that, in these particular moments, I’m actually more connected than I ever have been.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“Pieces of Her, Left Behind.”

My Mama & her “Midnight”

Someone just told me that today, August 17th, is #NationalBlackCatAppreciationDay .

Never did I ever know this was a “thing” but, as it echoes in mind, creating thoughts and stirring up memories, I have decided to indulge this day with a story.

On October 26th 2017, after being notified of the fatal crash that took both my parents lives, we traveled to the scene and then on to my parents home in the hills of Ohio, attempting to make some sense out of the chaos.

All alone inside their house, we discovered this bright eyed beauty, cowering beneath a bed – confused about who we were and what we were doing in his home.

“Where’s my Mama?”, he seemed to cry out; and my heart ached with the same confusion, broken open by the knowledge of the truth.

We coaxed him out, cuddled him, and brought him back home with us that night.

I’ll admit it right now, I did not want him. I immediately asked my husband to find someone to take him, somewhere else that he could go.

I was repulsed by the thought of a constant being in our house, every single day, reminding me of all that I have lost. But, as the days went on and the difficult funeral & burial decisions were made, his gentle spirit comforted me… and I could no longer let him go. I needed him here just as much as he needed me to let him stay.

Now, here we are, nearly 5 years later, and I find myself wondering if he was ever this happy all by himself in my parents home?

He has a dog to disturb and 3 cats to harass. He cuddles my husband every night and refuses to be ignored – he will make you love him, whether you want to or not, and I admire his tenacity!

It was a dark and tragic moment that brought us both together… but he has bounced back with ferocious resiliency and reminds me every single day that, while your whole world can come crashing down around you, it can not keep you down unless you let it.

Happiness is a CHOICE… and the choice is always yours!

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“The Comeback Will Be Huge.”

“The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved a good comeback story.

“Nadia” was my childhood icon. I watched her story unfold, on replay, again and again and again – until the tape on the VHS literally broke!

I followed the story of Muhammad Ali through the eyes of my father. We watched the fights, replayed from the 1970’s, using a rabbit ears antenna on a staticky tv screen with frequent interruptions, in the 1980’s.

On April 21st 2014, just one year after the horrific bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I watched in awe and absolute ecstasy as Meb Keflezighi made that left onto Hereford and right onto Boylston. With his chin and chest up, eyes focused forward, he ran with every ounce of strength he had left, crossing that finish line as the first american male to win the Boston Marathon in over 30 years! The “experts” had already counted him out, saying that he was too old, too slow, and had suffered too many injuries to even be considered a possible prospect for this win – but he was not deterred. He knew he was healthy. He knew he was strong. He knew he had trained well. But, most of all, he was humbled and grateful for the opportunity. He laced up his shoes, wrote the names of the deceased victims from the 2013 bombings on the corners of his bib: Martin, Lingzi, Krystle, and Sean – and he ran.

On May 6th, 2017, I held my breath as Eliud Kipchoge came so close, yet ultimately failed, to break the 2-hour barrier in running a full marathon. He crossed the finish line at 2:00:25 and I was deflated. How crushed he must be to have tried so hard, come so close, yet ultimately fail! His post-race response blew my mind. With a smile upon his face he looked at the camera and said, “Today I have learned that the impossible is possible. Now we are only 25 seconds away.”!

October 12th, 2019, Eliud returned to this attempt on the streets of Vienna. As the world watched, myself included, he not only succeeded in breaking through this previously perceived human barrier, he shattered it into a million pieces with a blazing fast time of 1:59:40! He proved to himself and the rest of the world that, no matter what Doctors and Scientists and disbelieving mortals may say or think, “NO HUMAN IS LIMITED!”.

Needless to say, I am a firm believer in this concept as well. So, there I was, just 36 hours after having undergone spinal surgery, making a decision and completing my registration. I committed myself to a goal – one which, in my current physical state and at this early stage of the recovery process, may seem completely absurd… but it is far from “impossible”.

I know this. I believe this. I intend to prove this.

Not for you, but for me. Not for the ones call me “crazy”, nor the ones who just can not seem to believe. I intend to prove this to myself – because I want to, because I feel the need to and, when I think about the future and envision the day when my chance finally comes, simply because I can!

I shared this goal with a friend of mine – a friend who loves a good comeback story just as much (if not more) than I! His response contained the most encouraging words ever bestowed upon me:

“In Muhammad Ali’s book “The Greatest: My Own Story”, Ali tells the story of when he returned home after he got his jaw broken and lost the Norton fight. Ali relates that every old friend he saw congratulated him on a great career, expressed sadness that it was over and that Ali would never be the champion again. Ali said that his jaw was wired shut and he could not talk but he kept telling himself “the comeback will be huge”. Later that year, 1973, he beat Norton in their rematch and, in 1974, he beat Frazier and, a year later, knocked out Foreman to regain the heavyweight championship of the world. The comeback will be huge!”

Joe Guilyard, August 4th, 2022.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine

“Emotional Magic!”

“Thoughts generate emotions, emotions influence the way we experience the world around us. How we handle our emotions
determines the lives we live.”

Nansia Movidi

Most people have no idea how to identify, let alone work with, their emotions.

Emotions are signals, kind of like the indicator lights on your car. You can use emotions that come up as tools and instruments that enable you to learn something about your body and your mind. To learn where something is scraping or scruffing, like sandpaper. The emotional signal is an indicator of an imbalance, pulling at you here.

Stop for a moment.

Question.

Reflect.

It always starts with WHY.

WHY do I feel this way about this? Or that? Or them? Or this whole situation?

That’s when you find the next part, like a magician pulling a handkerchief out of a magic hat, and then another, and another, and another… until you finally come to realize a core belief that you’ve adopted. Or you realize that you’ve been trying to control things outside of you. Or you discover a thought that’s not aligning with your spirit. And by uncovering the root cause of these emotions, finding clarity for what was formerly unknown, you can now begin to adress it, calling it by its name, and finally begin to heal it.

VOILÀ! …issue resolved!

This process provides space between you and your emotions. Discovering the actual issue brings clarity and, by actually addressing the issue, confidence and strength.

You don’t have to suffer beneath heavy emotions.
You can use them to optimize your body and your mind to serve you, for the betterment of yourself and, in turn, all whom you love.

The more you practice this, the more it becomes like second nature.

#BeyondTheBoylstonLine