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Boston to a New Tune


Belated Boston recap:

Boston 2o10 is now history. It was a good goal. And it lived up to all of the training in that it felt like a celebration. It was much more fun this year than last for me. For one, there was more sun, and there seemed to be a lot of smiling little children in the crowd ready to slap your hand and say “good job” when you needed it the most. That in a pinch will always get you by. Also, it was less stressful for me as I wasn’t doing it for the first time. I am still a newbie to races, but I’m finally getting the “get up before dawn after no sleep, eat when you are not hungry, hurry up and then wait in the cold for hours and then run!” format down. Knowing the drill really helps.

But also I chose to run to music this year (allowed but discouraged by officials).  Though I nearly always use music in my training, I had never run a race to music. A lot still don’t allow it.  I gave it some serious consideration. For one, music can be distracting, and at the level I was going to have to listen to it over the crowds, deafening. The Boston course can get pretty crowded, and the racers, though mindful and courteous for the most part,  are not out for a Sunday long run. They are really pushing — competitively.  My only experience of this so far has been that of friendly competition. It is a useful thing. We help drive each other on.  I certainly wanted to remain mindful of those moving around me. I decided to give the music a chance, and if it proved too problematic, I would simply shut it off. As it turned out, I believe it kept me more mindful of others–perhaps compensating for the handicap.

I don’ t tell anyone specifically what music I run to. As a musician, it’s embarrassing to admit to listening to some things you feel you shouldn’t–the like of eating junk food or watching FOX news.  The music that motivates you to move can be drastically different from your regular musical tastes, and not everyone understands this. For me, it’s simply a formula of lots of bpms, heavy double time bass lines, clean, reverby guitar solos,  heavy string sections, and uplifting messages. Not all of them are a far cry from what I normally listen to, but some of them, well, lets just say they qualify as blackmail material.  Some would surely say that accepting my appreciation for these tunes is part of accepting who I am as a person, and that I need to embrace rather than deny this part of myself.  But in this area, I guess I still need a lot of work. Maybe running will help with this.

I noticed this year that I was running a bit less passively– maybe a little more competitively than I have in the past, but still for fun, of course. I did carefully squeeze past a lot of people that, were it a past race, I would have probably just relaxed behind and accepted their pace. There is an art to this pressing forward–somewhat like moving through the crowd at a concert. Though sometimes we do find ourselves fighting for space, there is still a sense of cooperation and camaraderie. For me, it helps to know that we’re all at least focused on the same goal of running a good race and finishing strong.

Most races I simply run.  This time, I feel I actually did a bit of racing. And the music surely had something to do with this. In some ways, as it often does in training, it helped me focus.  I worked strategies of dodging and passing,  curve-hugging, and pace adjustment.  I knew beforehand that the elevation drop and the downhills would trash my quads, so I embraced this in training, and when the time came, really flew down the hills. It felt great, and I didn’t seem to pay for it as much as I’d thought I would.

At some point, as always, about five sixths into the race, I started to tire, and was pressed with that nagging question “why am I pushing so hard?” I have nothing to prove. I could relax and still finish strong. But I thought of the many friends and colleagues who were routing for me back  home, I knew, and I wanted to do well for them. I wanted my husband, who works so hard and supports me so tirelessly and lovingly to be proud.  And I wanted to do well for me.  I was reminded of  the truth about time and existence: all there really is is right here and now. THIS is the shining moment.  Whatever comes next, this is it. All there is.  Who knows if I would ever get the chance to run Boston again? Even to run another race? To live another year? Sure, I am still somewhat young and healthy and the odds are in my favor, but if you have ever watched someone suddenly lose their health or die an untimely death, you know that anything can happen. Fate is fickle.  And more than once I have come so close, I feel I have been given at least one second chance. Living your life as if you have been given a second chance gives you an internal perma-grin. It makes each moment you care to recognize  sacred, meaningful and fun.

So. I thought. I care to recognize it. Tired or not, I had damn sure better make the most of this beautiful, historic moment. I’m not getting any younger.  But for now, I have a bit of life left in me. I wanted more than anything to fully experience this moment, and more than anything to enjoy it.  So I was really glad I had my friends cheering me on. And I was glad I had my tunes. I selected them carefully, listening to the favorites over again,  letting them drive me on,  savoring them as if it had been the first time I had ever heard them or my last, and knowing that in some ways, I would never hear their message more clearly, never experience them more fully; accepting them on some new level so that I could say were it were my last and final hour,  I would be grateful they were accompaniment to my most shining moment.

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