As I write this I am wearing my Boston Marathon finishers medal. Even though I didn’t come close to winning, or even close to winning in my age group, I still have the very same medal as the guy who won. I am also wearing my official jacket and t-shirt. I am all decked out and I am excited to share my experience with you!
On Friday April 17, 2015 my youngest son and I drove to Boston and stayed with my cousins who live nearby. Saturday morning we got up and drove into the city of Boston where we met up with David Brown, who is the Chief Advancement Officer for the Forsyth Institute. Last Thanksgiving, I was invited to run the Boston Marathon as a charity fundraising event for the Forsyth Institute, and wanting to raise as much money as I possibly could, I looked into many different fundraising sites for charities such as some of these overviewed on GoFundMe, so I could start multiple fundraisers to increase the funds donated. We spent the day with David at the Boston Marathon Expo. Thousands and thousands of people were packed into the convention center picking up race bibs, a t-shirt, and a bunch of other bling that you get when you are part of the Boston Marathon.
I had organized a social media meet-up beforehand. I sent out tweets and Facebook posts inviting anyone in the Boston area who wanted to meet me face to face to come and get a signed copy of my book You Can Go the Distance. I met some folks who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, as well as a few from my life coaching community. There was something special about meeting them in person. It was really a magical event.
That evening, I met the rest of the Forsyth team â€“ 4 other runners; Shawn Cotton, Elizabeth Comeau, Sue Mackiewicz, and Adam Salsman. It was great to meet them over a dinner of fellowshipping, stories, and talking about how the race was going to be and sharing our nervousness and excitement about it. It was a wonderful evening!
Monday morning, April 20, 2015, I woke up at about 3:30 in the morning and had a hard time getting back to sleep. The excitement was too much! My Aunt and Uncle picked my son and me up and drove us into the city of Boston. The whole city blooms in love and excitement on marathon Monday â€“ which is also Patriots Day. Because of the crazy traffic, they dropped me off about four blocks away from where I needed to be and I walked to Boston Commons where thousands of people were waiting for the buses to take us to the starting line out in Hopkinton, MA.
I expected to be alone in the thousands of people waiting, but standing right in front of me in the porta potty line was my teammate Sue Mackiewicz and her family! It was very cold, just about forty degrees, drizzly, and windy. But, it felt colder than that. Elizabeth Comeau had brought arm warmers for the team and had handed them out at dinner the night before. I expected the weather to be a little warmer and drier than it actually was, so I didn’t come quite prepared. Elizabeth’s arm warmers were exactly what I needed. I wore them and pulled them up over my hands to use as gloves. As I stood there talking with Sue, her daughter, Audrey Rogers, noticed all I had on my head was my running cap. She said, “your ears are going to freeze!” Without any hesitation she pulled off her “Boston Strong” headband that was wide enough to cover the ears and handed it to me. If I had run that race without that headband covering my ears it would have been a completely different experience. To the two ladies who kept me warm, I love you and thank you!
There were thousands of runners waiting in Athletes Village, a big field behind a school where big tents were set up to keep everyone as dry and warm as possible. Eventually my wave was called. We walked a cold half mile to the starting line. Everyone was excited and ready to run the race. Just as the gun went off the rain poured down. It rained hard for the first eight miles! But it didn’t matter. I was running the Boston Marathon! This was a bucket list event for me, I was so excited. The weather didn’t matter to me. It was by far, the most pleasing running experience I have ever had. It went so amazingly well, despite the weather. I felt great. The crowd the runners along. My times were great, I was running faster than I anticipated I would. There were a couple times I was going so fast, I took some walking breaks to slow my pace down because I knew I wanted to save it for the end.
There was a one-mile stretch where I almost looped back and did it again. Students from Wellesley College, a girl’s college, came out to support the marathon runners! These girls know how to get a man motivated to keep running a marathon! Actually, some of them were motivating this 51 year old to stop running for a little while! Many were carrying signs saying “Kiss me!” So I did! 51 year old men don’t get lots of opportunities to kiss gorgeous 20 year old girls. I’m proud to say I probably kissed ten girls. It was wonderful!
It wasn’t long until I reached Heartbreak Hill â€“ this is where runners usually run out of steam. It’s not just the hill. I have run marathons that are much harder than Boston. The problem is it is pretty much a downhill course until mile 20 when you encounter your first set of real hills. Your body and brain has been used to running flat or down hill. But it is all about mental preparation. I knew it was coming. I had a plan for it. The rain had let off from about mile eight until about the time I crested Heart Break Hill. The rain unloaded on us again and the wind picked up. We were running in pretty miserable conditions – rain and gusts up to 30 miles an hour. The crowd was still out there, it was so amazing to see thousands and thousands of people cheering for us.
Then something happened to me that has never happened in a marathon before. I have had other events, injuries, aches and pains, but I have never cramped before. At mile twenty-three my right calf cramped up. I don’t know whether it was a combination of cold weather or the fact I was a little undertrained and was running faster than I had planned on. It was very painful! I ended up walking the bulk of the last three miles into the finish line. But you know what? It didn’t matter. I smiled for 26.2 miles! I smiled at the Athletes Village. I smiled while on the buses going out of Boston because I had in my heart this overwhelming gratitude for being alive and I kept saying to myself “Bruce, you are running the Boston Marathon!” The weather was irrelevant; it doesn’t get better than this in the life of a marathon runner.
At mile twenty-six we rounded the corner onto Boylston Street. At this point I decided I didn’t care how much I hurt, I was going to run the last section of the race. I knew my son would be somewhere in the crowd, I didn’t want my family to see me walking. There was a little bit of vanity going on too, the cameras and television crews were all on the last quarter of a mile stretch. So I started running again. It was painful, it was rainy and windy. But I didn’t care. I was overwhelmed with joy. About a hundred yards from the finish line, I started to pick up my pace and get excited.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw my son. And I knew that the most important thing for me to do was to not cross the finish line â€“ yet. I took a detour. Instead of running straight to the end like I had visualized for well over a year, I ran straight to him. I gave him a great big hug, kissed the top of his head, and gave the rest of my family high fives. That was all I really wanted, for them to be there to see me achieving this tremendous feat in my own life. Then my son said “Dad! Go! Go!” He wanted me to finish! It was less than a hundred yards to go! My calf was screaming. I started running again, repeating the mantra “Just don’t fall, just don’t fall.” The last thing I wanted to do was trip and fall at the finish line. But I didn’t.
I had visualized over the last year exactly what my marathon run would be and what I would do when I crossed the finish line. Many of you have heard me talk about this on my podcast. I knew I was going to say the affirmation I had been saying to myself for over a year when visualizing it: “I am feeling victorious, strong, and healthy as I stretch out my arms and stride across the finish line of the Boston Marathon.” And that is exactly what manifested! As I ran up to the finish line, people spread out and went to the sides enabling me to come straight across the center of the finish line with my arms held straight out. I crossed the finish line and it was so emotional. I made it! I scratched this item off my bucket list!
It was a wonderful experience. If I could do it all over again, given the weather conditions and given my cramping, I absolutely would! This time last year as I lay in a bed recovering from surgery to remove cancer, I didn’t know the how’s. I only knew what I wanted to accomplish someday. Don’t have a dream and say to yourself “It will never come true because I don’t know how.” That’s not your job, that’s God’s job to figure out. Your job is to dream the dream. To visualize your dream coming true. To feel the feelings you want to feel when you achieve those dreams. Experience the happiness and joy of achieving your dream today while you are working towards your dream. Even the smallest step in the direction of your dream will be rewarded. You can’t just dream your dream and sit on the couch. You’ve got to put action to it.
The universe is amazingly accommodating. You’ve got to tell people about your dreams. People are going to rally around and support you. If anyone criticizes you or makes fun of you then eliminate them from your lives. You don’t need that kind of negativity. I talked about my dreams in blog posts, I talked about it on my podcast â€“ that I would someday run the Boston Marathon. I didn’t know when. I thought I was going to have to qualify to run it. But I didn’t. David Brown at the Forsyth Institute read about my cancer and my dream of running the Boston Marathon. He was moved to reach out to me. He had the ability to make my dream come true. So he contacted me. That’s how it happens! Don’t get caught up in the how’s of your dreams. Put them out there. Feel your dreams, talk about your dreams to other people and take steps.
Take steps every single day because the reality is this: today, this moment right now is the only moment that we really have. You might not have a tomorrow. We are all going to die someday. Do you want to die in the pursuit of your dreams or just sitting on the couch thinking about vague wishes? Do something today to make your life amazing. You don’t have to go out and acquire amazingness. You already are amazing. You have exactly what it takes!
You may also listen to me talk about this on my “Life Is A Marathon” podcast: My Boston Marathon Experience