I’ll never forget the day the Boston Marathon was cancelled for the second time in 2020 and it was announced that there would be a virtual event. I remember where I was sat, the time of the day, everything. I was responding to messages and watching posts coming at me from all directions and sources. The cancellation wasn’t really a shock. By that time the impact of Covid-19 had set in. There was an inevitability to so much by then and an inherent sympathy to all those who had to make and communicate these decisions.

The one thing I hadn’t expected, despite talking about it freely as a possible outcome, was that my registration to run an actual, future Boston Marathon was a metaphorical, feisty fish to be thrown back into the sea. When that was no longer speculation and my brain had processed what that meant, a little something in my heart died. I wanted to go to sleep just so I didn’t have to think about it. (I do realise and acknowledge the scale of this problem vs that of others in 2020).

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Social media became awash with opinion, some anger, resignation; those who qualified comfortably or who knew they could, looking further into the distance for their race. For me, the previous September, I thought I had been given a guarantee; membership to the club. “It’s just the fun bit now, Jackie” they said. “Qualifying was the hard bit.”

Maybe, in 2020, the universe needed me to learn that in life, nothing is guaranteed. In the time following my registration to Boston, my 43 year old, fit and healthy husband almost died of a heart attack on a soccer pitch and ended up having a quintuple heart bypass. There was that small matter of a global pandemic. We moved from Ohio to Kansas. Nothing is guaranteed.

But, now here’s the thing. Me… I’ve got these friends see, runner friends, mum friends, just friends, who are more than a little bit special. If you are a runner, it’s likely you have them too, because runners, they are a special kind of person. This was also the Boston Marathon, a special kind of marathon. I needed to have faith.

I of course went into a temporary funk. Whether it was psychological or a symptom of a long period of on-off marathon training, my long standing left foot tendon started playing up. Of course I was going to enter Virtual Boston, of course I was. But I confess, back then, my little broken runners heart wasn’t really in it. On top of that I had to move away.

But in the weeks leading up to my Virtual Boston, my running sun started to come back up. For reasons the universe only knows, my tendon pain went away on the crazy hills of Lawrence, Kansas. I re-found my running joy. At the 7 mile turn around during (another virtual) half marathon I was alone on a path with the sun coming up, ugly faced crying. I know this may sound overly dramatic, but for me it was real. I was back in love with running and whilst scared for my lack of training and endurance, Virtual Boston was ON.

I re-found my mojo right there

I re-found my mojo right there

And then came the day. Those friends I mentioned? Well, this is where that running cup gets filled and filled again. After a 10 hour drive (thank you, Colin), I was about to run the Boston Marathon on the Little Miami bike trail in Southern Ohio. Let me somehow talk you through this:

  • My friend Crystal meets me (this was the day before) for a shake out run

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  • It’s 5:30am of the day, Nisbet Park, my friend Kelly sings The Star Spangled Banner. I ugly face cry.

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  • My friend Rebekah runs the first 4 miles with me. It’s pitch black. She has a speaker on her hip. During mile 3 I am, once more, ugly face crying. (No pictures here, it was too dark)
  • We hit the Monkey Bar. There is a drink stop – maybe 2. A crowd of girls I haven’t seen in a month (Nicole, Stacey, Jen) and my next round of run company, Hope and Kathy. My heart is happy, my legs are happy.

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  • Around 2.5 miles later, we meet Carman for the 6.5 mile hop back to Nisbet. My heart is happy (It’s still dark).
  • Back at Nisbet I’m joined by Richard and Crystal. Hope and Rebekah are still with me. My heart is happy. My legs are on a roll.

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  • Along the course of the next 6 miles, I lose most of the accrued entourage so far, its just me and Crystal from mile 19 – 22. My heart is happy. My legs are less happy. My Garmin does something weird. Crystal keeps me going. My heart over-rides the legs. I’m fine and I have got this.

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  • Back at the monkey bar, there are drinks, I get a sighting of my daughter and Hope. My friend LeeAnn joins me for a mile. My heart is happy, I know longer care about my legs.

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  • Mile 22 I am joined by Laura with her lovely son Nolan (he’s in a stroller), Danni, Kate, Angie, Kayla, we walk a bit, run a bit, laugh a lot (I swore a bit), but the gods of running did what they do and that second wind Crystal had promised me at mile 19, blew me those last few miles.

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  • We are approaching the end. There is an ACTUAL Boston finish line held by Nick and one of my friend Julie’s daughters (who, incidentally, finished her Boston Marathon only AN HOUR before). My daughter and my friend’s daughters and a son joined me. I’d ran my Boston. My heart was full to bursting. My legs are done.

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But it doesn’t end there.

  • There were some post run shenanigans – including LOTS of baked goods and liquids high in electrolytes and other wonderful things. *Medals donated by the Boston graduates amongst us – real 2020 ones to come later!

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  • Later, after showers and naps Julie and I met up with our fellow “Bostoners” Kathi and Sarah to finally wear the celebration jackets that had been stashed away for about six months

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  • Just one more party and then the sun went down on one of the most REAL running days of my life.

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And there it was. My Boston Marathon experience is closed for now. I didn’t get to break my heart on a hill or turn right on Hereford and left on Boylston (almost Boylston though – see below!), but omagosh, look what I did get. LOOK WHAT I GOT! Do you know what, if I had my life over with choices, I’d choose this. There may be other Bostons, but there won’t be another ” this”.

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So it’s true, not much in this life is guaranteed, but I reckon if you choose to look for joy and surround yourself with joyful people, joy at least is much more likely.

And Boston you were EVERYTHING they said you would be.

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#BostonSTRONG. The End.