In one week, I will be running my fifth Boston Marathon. Over the past five years, the roads between Hopkinton and Boston have seen me through a lot. In fact, just about the only thing that’s been a more constant presence in my life are my ladyfriends.
This year in particular has been full of Big Events – going to Ghana, starting grad school, and learning to blow-dry my hair at the age of 27, just to name a few. The fact that I’ve come out on the other side only one or two wallets the worse for wear is due entirely to the ministrations of an incredible group of women. Over the past year they have given me, in no particular order: advice, beer, pancake mix, the world’s most comfortable couch, the world’s most comfortable daybed, an extra set of keys, this, hugs, rides, and most importantly, strength and inspiration when I find myself at a loss (often literally). Next Monday I know I’ll be relying on them once again, to get me through this Big Event like they have so many others.
For instance, I always go out too fast. But this year, when I catch myself running at a wholly unsustainable pace, I will hear Erica’s voice in my head saying, as she always does when I’m hurtling towards disaster, “Whoa. I’m concerned,” and I’ll slow it down. When I hit the bleak stretch between Miles 6 and 9 in Framingham, I’ll imagine Meredith and Carly keeping things lively, step-touch body-rolling down the road beside me.
Natick is where I get over the nervousness and start settling into my pace, so I will think of Kelly, whose endless patience, advice, and insanely comfortable couch helped get me over my nervousness and make Ghana a place I could settle into. And hearing the screams of our Wellesley Seven Sisterfriends at Mile 12 always reminds me of the Vassar girls whose friendships fundamentally shaped who I am today (in particular, my ladylike manners).
At Mile 15, I’ll pass my TEAM water stop and see the wives and sisters and mothers and daughters, volunteers and survivors, whose strength inspires me every weekend. When I start on the hills at Mile 17, I’ll need a pick-me-up. So I’ll think of Lauren, who has picked up my physical self and my spirits more times than I can count this past year. Heartbreak Hill has been JA’s ever since the first year I ran, when this girl I’d just met showed up waving a sign the size of Texas and screaming her similarly Texas-sized heart out.
When I start to feel the miles adding up in Cleveland Circle, I’ll draw on the grit of the women who I am blessed to share a gene pool with. Would Aunt Julie let that drunk BC kid cut her off? No she certainly would not. And I know Mom’s got enough OMs to get my karma back where it should be after I clothesline him. At Mile 23 I will see Micaela, perennial cheerleader, whose unconditional support will help bring me home like she herself has so many times, driving me back across the river back to Cambridge after a polenta night.
Mile 24 is when I start to montage, and so I will think of Laura, montage connoisseur. She has also always had the magical ability to turn every unpleasant moment into a hilarious sitcom misunderstanding, so I will imagine how she is going to screenwrite my fisticuffs with an exuberant Kenmore Square spectator into something that doesn’t involve tears or the police.
The last mile I will, of course, think of Anna. I never would have joined Team in Training if it hadn’t been for her (and perhaps the extensive selection of beers at Sunset). She has gotten me from the start to the finish of six marathons and a thousand crises large and small in between, and I just don’t know what I would do without her.
Thank you, ladies, for taking care of me as I wobble through life, trailing important belongings behind me. You are the reason I’m going to make it to the starting line, and it is thinking of you that will get me to the finish. I love you!