My qualifying time just wasn’t fast enough for this year’s race. After working through my initial disappointment, I was clear that I just wanted to be part of it, in anyway I could. So, on Monday, I was a BAA volunteer.
When I arrived for my assignment at 7am, there was a lot of confusion and my name wasn’t on any assignment list. The Hopkinton organizer was visibly upset and confused by the complication. He stopped everything he was doing (which was a lot) and anxiously tried to help me. So I put my hand on his shoulder and calmly looked him in the eyes and said, “I’m here to be in service, not to add any stress. Don’t worry about me, I will find where I can help.” He immediately calmed and asked if I’d mind walking ¾ of a mile up the road to the Athlete’s Village. I told him I’d love to and off I went.
The Athlete’s Village looked so different from years past. The school roof tops were covered with snipers. There were Secret Service & FBI agents in bullet proof vest with dogs everywhere. The roads which corral the 36,000 runners were barricaded with DPW dump trucks. It was a spectacle. There was a palpable state of alertness mixed with the most unmistakable energy of determination and joy.
Getting into the village was a whole other challenge, but once into the village I got connected to my identification and uniform. Still without any specific direction for how I was to help, I walked into the sea of people. For a while people who needed help or questions answered just found me. Then I started bumping into people I knew from around the country – “coincidentally” – many of whom were traveling alone and wanted someone to share a moment of their experience. Talk about being in the flow and knowing you’re just where you belong.
Around 8:30 I met a man with a bull horn and asked him if there was anything that needed doing. He asked me where I was supposed to be. I smiled and said “right here.” I gave him a very brief overview of the morning circumstances and the places I’d checked-in for an assignment so far. He asked me what I wanted to do. This was my first time volunteering so I really didn’t know the options, but I think I had my best job interview, ever! I said, “I’m here to be in service in any way I can. I can offer joy, contagious positive energy, and willingness.”
I spent the rest of the morning on the first-ever team of “bib-checkers”. Before any of the runners could move out to the roads to the corrals, we checked each of their numbers. (There were 12 of us – did I mention there were 36K runners?) It was amazing. While people gathered waiting for their bib color to be called there were tears, hugs, and the ‘thank yous’ were innumerable. Everyone had their own story that brought them to this specific moment in time. But it was like a convergence – where everyone was sharing and connected at the core to strangers who weren’t at all strangers. It was powerful.
When the last of the runners passed through, we all just stood and looked out to the fields. You really can’t imagine the clothing and blankets and stuff that was left behind. (All of which was donated to Big Brothers/Big Sisters) The runners were out on the streets making their own way to Boston. All of them determined and so hopeful that they would be able to cross this year. Thoughts were on the miles of running, but also on their families and friends along the way – and their safety.
Many of the people I know who ran, didn’t hit their target times. Many were off significantly. But it didn’t sit in their craws like it would have in years past. They all talked about how many times they cried along the way and how many times they laughed. Many of them got sick – 70+ degrees is hot after this cold winter’s training. But none of it detracted from the day. They had trained to finish the Boston Marathon this year. And they did. They brought their fears and their hope with them – for 26.2 miles.
I am so grateful for the privilege to have experienced and been part of this transcendence. When I think about positive energy and sport and human capacity – this is the potential I know with all my being exists for all of us.
– to the finish
we will run
we will cheer
our determination and spirit are strong
and will not yield