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LJ Idol week 22: token

Among the change in my wallet is a token from the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority.  It's close to a nickel in size and similar in color to a penny. I’ve had it since 2005 despite the fact that I live on the opposite coast so the thing has no practical use. I’m amazed that I haven’t ever accidentally spent it. I didn’t set out to get a keepsake, I had bought several tokens for my dad and I that weekend and one just didn’t get spent. But I like it. It reminds me of that weekend in Boston, watching my mother run the marathon.

Mom set herself several goals for the year she would be 50, things she had decided she had to do before she got any older. One of them was to run a marathon. At the time I don’t think she had ever run more than five miles all at once. But she found a training program online and started.

This was a huge role reversal in my life. Growing up it was my dad who ran – mostly 10Ks throughout the summer. I would run whatever short race accompanied the main event, and Mom would be there to cheer us on. 

She trained hard, and successfully finished her first marathon just two months shy of turning 51. I thought that might be the end of it, but she decided to keep going.  Having run one marathon she wanted to do it again, but faster. She started researching how to better train, and eat, and generally improve. After her second marathon, which was faster than her first, she set a new goal. She was going to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

For runners, the Boston Marathon is a huge deal, specifically because you have to qualify. In New York or Chicago or LA you can decide you want to run a marathon, pay your entry fee and you’re in. In Boston you have to have run a previous marathon below a qualifying time for your age and gender on an approved course. You submit that time with your application and your entry fee and then you get in. (There are a certain number of invitations that get sent out so it is possible to run your first marathon at Boston. But it’s rare.)

Mom kept running, and kept getting faster. At one point she missed qualifying by 53 seconds. She spent a day or two depressed and then realized that the problem was her finish, the last six miles she was losing her pace and her focus. Sadly the only way to practice the last six miles of a marathon is to run the twenty before them first, so she signed up for another race. She inspired me to start running again, after all once your mother is running marathons you can at least get out of your chair and make it around the block. I wanted to get home to see her race, but my work schedule kept getting in the way.  

Finally, Mom qualified. She was registered to run Boston. I cleared my schedule and flew out to meet my parents. On Sunday Dad and I hung out together sightseeing, letting Mom have a quiet day to prepare, and that evening I caught up with some friends in town to continue to stay out of the way.

Monday morning Mom was off on a bus to the start line and Dad and I rode the T to the house of a friend who lives on the marathon course, just a few miles before heartbreak hill. We chatted with Ryan and his other guests. My mom was only person running that anyone there knew, so the entire group was adopting her. Suddenly a roar came from up the street. We looked over and the first runner came into view.

Distance runners in their stride are beautiful. There is such power and grace in their movement. At this point in the race he was still relaxed. There was more of the course behind him than in front of him and it wasn’t time to push yet. We all cheered as he went by, and then in the distance we saw runner number two.

The runners stayed spaced out for the first ten minutes or so as the elite passed us by. A shout was raised as each new person came into view, and when the first American passed (I think he was eighth at the time) the sound became briefly deafening. 

Soon the trickle of runners became a steady stream. It was still possible to see individual people, and shout out specific encouragement. Then the stream became a river, and the street was filled from curb to curb with runners. And they just kept coming. We stood there in Ryan’s front yard clapping and yelling for 45 minutes straight and still there were more people. Dad and I realized that we had to make a choice. We could either see Mom there or at the finish line, but it was unlikely that we could do both. We decided that with Ryan and his friends there to cheer Mom on we’d head to the finish instead.

Mom wasn’t running as fast as she had hoped. Her knees had been bothering her more and more lately, and she said that if it wasn’t Boston she wasn’t sure she would have run that day. Ryan had called while we were underground on the T to say that Mom had passed him, and was moving slowly but moving. 

We arrived back downtown and wound our way through the streets and the people, eventually ending up at a barrier right at the road’s edge about six blocks from the finish. We stood there cheering the runners going by and keeping a lookout for Mom, in her white hat and blue shirt. Finally, there she was.

We both screamed her name and waved and I saw her look over and smile so I knew she saw us. She didn’t have a whole lot of energy left for anything else. Dad and I watched her out of sight and then walked around to where runners left the finishing area. Mom came out several minutes later looking completely exhausted. Boston turned out to be her second slowest marathon, due to her knees, but she had done it. That fall I ran my first half-marathon.

Boston was also my Mom’s last marathon; her knees just won’t let her cover that kind of distance anymore. But for five years she was a marathoner, and I carry a token to prove that she got exactly as far she wanted to be and met all the goals she set for herself. Every time I reach for change I see the T on that token and smile. And remind myself that I should go out for a run.

**This is my entry for week 22 of LJ Idol.  We had our pick of two topics this week and I chose token (and am waiting to see what evil thing is going to happen based on our choices). ***

This was very sweet, I loved it!

It's so awesome to have a clearly defined goal and meet it with class!

Aw thanks! That was the craziest of my mom's while I'm 50 goals, but she did meet them all by her deadline. She keeps nudging me to move up to marathons but they're scary.

Dude, this was amazing. I really enjoyed it!

Aw, thanks! I was actually tearing up as I remembered watching the runners, there is something about all of that effort and grace that is moving.

Oh the Boston Marathon is coming up on Monday! It's a tough one...heartbreak hill! I'vealways wanted to go to Boston to watch...not run!

It is that time of year. I'll have to see if it's on TV anywhere out here, ever since Mom ran I try to watch it if I can. According to my mom heartbreak hill isn't that bad (it's similar to the hill by the golf course where she runs all the time) it's just in a bad spot - mile 22 I think?

Thanks! Of all things after writing this I couldn't go out for a planned run tonight because I pulled a muscle today. boo.

Wow, what perseverance. Your mom sounds like a determined and admirable lady...:) On a side note, running's always been hard for me!

Honestly after being less than a minute from qualifying I think I would have stopped. I enjoy running because I don't need a lot of fancy equipment or a team to do it, but that said I am slow. I don't think I've run under a 10 minute mile ever.

Oh wow! It is amazing that your mom qualified for Boston. I have a friend who has run every marathon in the US except Boston because he couldn't qualify.

Great use of the prompt.

Well the thing about qualifying for Boston is as you get older the qualifying times get slower, so if your friend can just keep running it might catch up with him.

Thanks so much!

I love how certain objects carry oceans of meaning--and, in this case, runners. Wonderful story, wonderfully told.

Thanks so much. When you hit the average pace for a race the runners do start to resemble water, all moving together towards one goal.

Fantastic entry! My aunt has done marathons, triathalons, ultra running, and adventure racing. I've been there some to cheer her on, and it's really cool.

It is so much fun to be at the finish line and cheering folks on, whether you know them or not. My mom has started doing triathlons, the swimming and biking are easier on her knees.

This was inspiring, even for a non-runner like me!

Yay then it worked. Maybe you can just play the 'Rocky' training theme while you move around your house.

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This is very sweet and inspiring. What a great story, great memories. :)

Thanks. It was a great weekend, I'm so glad I made the time to be there.

I can't imagine doing such a thing. People who fight for their goals so much as your mom are very inspiring :)

Honestly I can't imaging running a marathon either. I decide I'm completely insane at about mile 12 every time I've done a half. My mom is pretty awesome.

Thanks! Having written this and relived it I really want to go for a long run but have to be careful I don't overstep where I'm at.

Your mom sounds incredible. Such determination! My friends signed up for a half marathon earlier this year ... not sure if I am sad or relieved that it was on a weekend when I was out of town!

Heh well instead of running if you were in town you could offer to be roadside support and meet up with them with water and fruit or something. Do that once and they may not let you run.

Mom has moved on to triathlons, since the biking and swimming are nicer to her knees.

Oh, wow. Your mom sounds amazing - marathons after 50!!! Thank you for sharing this lovely memory. :)

It's amazing to me how many folks are starting to run later and later.