Friday, May 17, 2013

The Medal

When I crossed the finish line on April 15, I received at least two other things prior to my medal—a bottle of water and a heat blanket.  It was interested because my Sunday School 3rd graders six days later asked why anyone would want a blanket.  Well, after running 26.2 miles and sweating a lot and then stopping and feeling a cold breeze, you might be surprised to know just how important that blanket us.   It is also hard to describe to third graders how the blanket is sort of like aluminum foil (but not exactly) that a runner wraps around himself or herself after the race.  It makes a big difference in at least some races and the race on April 15 was one time.  I know that it made a difference as it helped me to feel more stable and then there was the volunteer who asked if I was feeling okay and I answered her by saying just a bit cold.  That was an unusual response for me in my five post-marathon experiences but it was absolutely accurate.  And since it was before the post-race and post-explosion adrenalin kicked in, I really was focused just on how my body felt at the time.

The third thing I received on what still seemed like a glorious afternoon at the time was my Boston Marathon 2013 finishers medal.  The water was important.  Despite finishing all the water I had carried with me (and I did actually carry the water with me for this marathon which was different than an of the previous four in which I’d relied entirely on water stops) and drinking even more, I was still in need of water.  It felt good going down.  The heat blanket was important for reasons described above.  The food (which came after the medal) was also incredibly important as I’d taken my gooey nutritional bite sized snacks but I had not had anything else since very early that morning.

However, it was not any of those other than the medal that mattered most.  I had my Boston Marathon finishers medal.  I have other mementoes of that day.  I have my 2013 Boston Marathon program.  (I didn’t see or hear anyone shouting “Programs!  Get your programs here!”  But the image of that happening was quite amusing.)  I have my Boston Marathon jacket.  It is blue and yellow with numerous Boston Marathon symbols on it.  Many people even outside the running community know what it is and have asked me about it when I have worn it since then.  And within the running community it shows that I am a member of a relatively small fraternity of individuals who have qualified for and gone to Boston—the reference to a fraternity is how one of my companions for the weekend described it although I never was and never really had any desire to be part of a fraternity when I was in college.  It doesn’t signify only qualification.  It signifies going and at least attending the expo.  I also acquired a nice ring that doesn’t signify anything other than the fact that I purchased it but I do like it and my wife commented that it is sort of like a Super Bowl ring for runners.  That analog only goes so far as to get a Super Bowl ring you have to win.

The medal is actually a bit more like a Super Bowl ring, although unlike a ring a runner does not wear the Boston Marathon finisher’s medal every day after the race.  It is also like the Super Bowl ring only in limited ways since everyone who completes the race gets a ring rather than only the winners.  Yet, it is the ultimate symbols of accomplishment.  You do not earn that until you have qualified, registered, come, and run.  And only when you are finished and have proven that you can make it through the challenging course do you actually receive the medal.

I had the medal placed around my neck and wore it as we were on the way back to the hotel.  I think that one of the main issues I have worked through with the bombing that day was feeling that my opportunity just to enjoy the experience and, if you will, “bask in my accomplishment” was taken away from me.  Given the explosions, the injuries, and the deaths, even by the time I returned home that night the medal was no different but its meaning was diminished.  I brought it to work and put it where people who walk to a particular part of my office can see it but did not choose to highlight it beyond that.  I am not ashamed of the medal, but the desire to call any type of attention to it was completely reduced or even removed.

It went from being something that I was overjoyed to receive.  Something that I took pride in.  Something that I might even have wanted to show off a bit.  To instead being something that is important to me but that I really wanted to keep much more to myself.  Yes, I did it.  But that is all. 

It became a simple statement of fact rather than a big deal. 

I have certainly spoken of the race in glowing terms to some people in the time since.  But it is only when asked.

The nature of the experience changed from something that I thought I would want to share with anyone who would bother to listen to something that I only share when asked and even then only in very guarded terms.

One of the biggest accomplishments of my life outside career and family suddenly and the easiest way to show other than I had accomplished what I set out to accomplish suddenly became something that I chose to not focus on and not share.

Avoiding being a braggart about it—good thing of course.  Avoiding sharing unless asked—may or may not be good.   I like to think that my story is at least somewhat inspirational.  I like to think that other runners who may aspire to run Boston some day could benefit from hearing how exciting it is.  How wonderful it is.  How well organized it is.  But instead, I speak of it only in hushed tones. 

It is interesting to see how I let external events shape my life and my attitudes toward things.  Moving ahead, one key will be to live my life, experience my attitudes, and share my ideas with others on my own terms.  Following social norms as appropriate. But not letting external events over which I have no control get to me and have an undue influence on how I behave.  

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