WADDLING THROUGH HISTORY
Yes, I was there. Through the most unlikely cosmic hiccup,
my name was drawn in the Boston lottery. I ran the 100th
not because I possessed the talent, but because I had the
audacity to put my name on a postcard. Destiny, it seems,
has a sense of humor.
Destiny also has a taste for irony and melodrama. I found
out that my name had been selected on October 10, two days
after the Fox Cities Marathon. Two days after my wife and
running partner had missed qualifying at Fox Cities, in part
because of her concern for my injury.
Never was it more true than for the 100th Boston
that the miracle was not in finishing, but in having the courage
to start. Thats because in December that same rebellious
knee forced me out of the Rocket City Marathon at mile 15.
And in January, it was that same knee that the good Dr. Jordan
injected with a burning shot of cortisone, not so that I could
run or waddle, but so that I could simply walk.
The emotional dichotomy was nearly paralyzing. Knowing that
this would very likely be my only Boston meant walking a tightrope
of unbridled excitement and abject terror. The elation of
going was always offset by the ever-present knee brace, the
desire to run tempered by the need to heal, and the joy of
the dream clouded by the painful reality.
But go I did. Still uncertain of my right to be there, I
waded tentatively into the torrent of festivities and rituals
that was Boston 100. I moved anonymously through the crowds
at the expo, fearing that the real runners would recognize
this impostorthis penguin on a pilgrimagein their
The effect of Boston 100 was cumulative. Each day brought
new enlightenment, new awareness. Sitting in a room with former
champions, with the men and women who have come to define
the Boston Marathon, I discovered that I share something with
these runners that transcends our finishing times.
The heroes of the past are, it turns out, quite ordinary
people. Its just that they have accomplished extraordinary
deeds. They have run their races, set new standards and opened
previously unopened doors. Yet, above it all, they are first
and foremost runners. Their passion for the sport, for the
joy of running, is indistinguishable from the passion of those
who cross the finish line hours behind them.
Standing in the "B Open" corral on a sun-drenched
Monday morning, I found myself surrounded by people who were
just as possessed by the will to test their physical and emotional
limits as even the most talented of the elite runners. The
men and women, young and old, surrounding me each brought
to bear all the courage they could muster against this daunting
challenge called Boston. They were each champions in their
And somehow the marvelous crowds knew that. Instinctively
or through experience, the spectatorsat Wellesley College,
on Heartbreak Hill, along Boylstonknew that we needed
them at least as much as those who had breezed by hours before.
They knew what I was just beginning to learn. They knew that
in the final analysis, Boston 100 came down to each person
conquering the fears and insecurities that might sabotage
their goalwhether that goal was to be the outright winner
or, a much more personal victory, simply to complete the course.
My admiration for the elite runners is deeper now. They are
sublime athletes. My admiration for all the other runners
is deeper as well. I understand now the passion to qualify
and the will to train. But Boston 100 was, in the end, what
all races are. Ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary
History was made on April 15, 1996. Five hours, 32 minutes
and 26 seconds after I crossed the starting line, I finished.
But my name will not be among those remembered. A slow, middle-aged
man will not even be a footnote in the story of the 100th
Boston Marathon. And yet, in my own private history book,
I will devote an entire chapter to this race. If only for
myself, I will celebrate all the miles to Boston, not just
the final 26.2.
Waddle on, friends.