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Last in My Class, On Top of The World!

My marathon experience.

This is a non-Kandi story but at the same time, is only happened because Kandi exists at all!

As you all know, I recently ran the Boston Marathon. Me, broken down, 60 year old plow horse. The most prestigious race in the world. One of the most exclusive. I made it in only the fifth marathon I have ever run (and probably my last). This is the story.

Two years ago, I saw a window. When I turned 60, I was afforded an additional 15 minutes to qualify. So I set my sights on a race in the spring of 2020 and planned to give it a shot over the next year or so. I trained hard, doing so with a friend who had been to Boston. And I did train hard. Then in one of many disappointments (I know I am not alone in this), the pandemic rolled through and wiped that out. As we had no idea when the pandemic would end, I continued to train and seek the next possible qualifying race. And I kept training. Well, long story short, 2,400 miles later, I finally got that chance in mid 2021. Since nothing in life is ever easy, two things conspired to foil my plans.

One was no small thing, my father was dying and it looked like he would pass on the day of the race. He did not, but did so a few days later. Secondly, my training leading up to the race was done so in cold winter weather and brutal temperatures. Race day, 80’s, which to a runner is more like 90’s. But we plowed forward and I was flying for 16 miles, crushing the race! Then the reality of the day hit and I hit the wall. I walked quite a bit and had given up the dream. I made peace with that decision. Nearing the final two miles, I realized the equity I built up in those first 16 miles would allow me to obtain a qualifying time. I sprinted the remainder of the race and squeaked in by just over a minute!

I had a qualifying time! But based on significant recent history, that time would certainly not be enough to be invited to this prestigious race. I was able to tell Dad I had qualified for Boston, so that was certainly a gift. Now the wait……

Application for the race did not occur until November, as the 2021 race was delayed until October due to, well you know. I thought of trying to better my time in another race, but just could not get the juice for it. Those 2,400 miles took their toll. Then that e-mail came in December. Due to a reduced application field (the pandemic, of course) every applicant was accepted! I was in! Goal set, goal met! My time would not have gotten me an invitation to the race in any other year except this one and 2013.

So now I had to crank it back up again, training for this race. Winter this year was at first mild and then wicked. I picked up training with my friend until the weather turned. I told him that my health was the most important thing as I could not participate without it. So I took my running indoors. On certain days, that required 192 laps. I also tripped once, badly tearing up my knee. Fortunately it was only the skin, not the functional knee. My friend didn’t listen to my concerns about running outdoors, continuing to do so and ultimately falling, breaking ribs and puncturing a lung. He is almost healed now.

Throughout the training, my legs were constantly sore. So much so that I was really unable to complete scheduled training runs. So I cut things back significantly a few weeks before Boston. I crossed my fingers, hoping for good weather and health.

I got the good weather! On what was an iffy weather weekend, the window of the race was spectacular. If you could script race weather, this would be it. Bright and beautiful sunshine, temps in the low 50’s. My legs felt pretty good, but we would later find out, not so much….

The entire logistics of actually getting to the start was long and a marvel. Getting 24,000 to cross a line painted across a street is quite a task! On the hotel shuttle to the bus to the race, I met a Ukrainian gentleman from Canada. Mo and I became immediate friends and we agreed to run the race together, keeping each other on pace. We even discussed who would cross the finish line first! It worked like a charm for about 15 miles, I ran the smartest race I ever had. I have a tendency to run too fast early on (see above) and burn myself out for the finish. But my legs basically quit on me, what I feared had happened. I could only run on down slopes, walking the remainder of the race. As such, my time was God awful, an hour longer than expected. I have gotten a lot of “just finishing is a win” from friends. That is so nice and not at all true. This is Boston! Finishing is expected, implied!

Now please understand, I am not at all being hard on myself or beating myself up. That is an honest assessment of my performance. My experience was other worldly! Once I knew time was no longer an issue, I turned the race into a long high-five and fan interaction experience. I talked with many, many people lining the course. I easily slapped a thousand hands. I smiled the entire 26.2 miles. I stirred up the crowds to amp up the cheering. I bowed to the fans. I chatted up and encouraged other runners. I have never been more miserable and joyfully happy at the same time. I will always try to find that sliver of hope to get back because my entire experience was a lifetime highlight. I will never, ever forget it! I wish to be buried in my unicorn jacket (no really).

My choice of clothing for the race was perfect. My script Cleveland shirt brought constant “Cleveland Rocks”, “Rock Hall”, “Cleveland!!!!” cheers. My school hat brought plenty of other cheers!

In fact, the entire weekend was amazing. This was the first marathon held on the traditional Patriot’s Day in three years, so the city was buzzing! Everyone and anyone (including me) wearing their race gear was treated like a rock star. Our hotel was spectacular. We made friends at the local bar/restaurant. From the moment we stepped out of the car from the drive there to our departure, we were engaged with so many wonderful people. The sense of community was wonderful.

I have never had so much fun. I have never been so connected to humanity. I have never been so proud of myself. I am a survivor, a mentally tough competitor. Not ever the best one, but always pushing forward. Thank you Boston!

Now I have to reassess how I train and move forward from here. Every year someone finishes last in their class at Harvard. I guess I just finished last in my class, but it was “Harvard”!

Post-script: This past Sunday, a friend from pickleball invited me out for a celebratory drink. I figured there would be a couple of people. About 25 showed up! And they got me a gift. I was told they wanted to get me a gift certificate for a massage, figuring I would enjoy that after having run the race. But they did not have an opportunity to get the certificate, so they gave me cash. $200! These people that I play pickleball with all pitched in $200. I was floored and humbled. Wow…… Remind me never to complain about anything, ever.


10 Responses

  1. Hi Kandi, This is an excellent, very moving in fact, account of a truly wonderful experience. Your attitude toward life and the varied experiences it throws at us, both good and bad, challenging and delightful, is inspiring and uplifting. As a lifelong athlete (tennis, cross country running, road cycling, squash) I feel your pain and your joy through the intense preparation for your marathon races. Boston! Wow. Yes, finishing the Boston Marathon is, without question, a major accomplishment. Enjoy it; you have earned it, and keep on being true to yourself. Have a terrific Ohio spring Wednesday! Best, Marissa in Ohio

  2. For one who is in your age group I really don’t think I could do this so my friend it truly is an amazing accomplishment to do this.
    At our age we are just trying our best to keep on living and doing so without much pain or setbacks
    Yes you endured and I’m proud of you.
    Me the only athletic thing I do is play golf and it’s not as easy as it use to be to recover after an 18 hole round but I love the game and will play it for as long as I’m able

  3. Kandi, I commend you for your efforts in running this year’s Boston Marathon. It is an amazing experience that can also be humbling. You turned it into another way to connect with people! And the crowds for this year were so excited to be fully back along the route, so they gave extra encouragement and enthusiasm to all the runners.

    I only wish I had been home during the race, as I would have tried to get to a spot in Newton near the turn onto Commonwealth Avenue to cheer you on. But I was spending the time in Chicago with my wife and daughter, so a virtual “way to go” was all I could do. I hope you have recovered from your trip and race.

    Hugs, Tina

  4. Such an amazing story!! Sooo very happy for you.
    Glad I got to hear some of it first hand at CMA.
    Will look for you on May 6th. Should be a great party!

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