As I hobbled home after my first marathon, I knew I was going to run again. I had to.
It wasn't that I was hooked on 26.2-milers – something many serious runners warned me would happen. Rather, last year, I was five-tenths of a mile out from the Boston Marathon finish line when I hit a wall of dazed athletes.
"They won't let you finish," a man in neon shorts told me. "There was an explosion."
I had planned to make the 2013 race my first and last marathon. "You did a marathon in my book," was the common (and kind) response when the topic came up. I'm sure, technically, that was true: There was enough zigzagging from portable toilets to water stations, plus trips to the sidelines for high-fives, to add up to five-tenths of a mile.
But a marathon doesn't end with a disorientated shuffle or a rushed Facebook post saying, "I'm OK." So on Patriot's Day, I'll be lining up in Hopkinton to finish what I started.
Once again, I'm running on a team of sighted and visually impaired athletes, supporting the Massachusetts Association for the Blind. The BAA gave all 2013 participants who completed at least half the race but were kept from the finish line the opportunity to run again in 2014.
Call it the world's slowest marathon – roughly one year, nine hours, and an extra 25.7-mile warm-up for good measure – but I've been visualizing that final turn onto Boylston Street long enough to know it will be worth the wait.
I can picture the moment: I'll be past the miles of aches and pains, the huffing and puffing up Heartbreak Hill. I will have already shared smiles with cheering strangers and created fleeting friendships with other runners.
As I cross the finish line, the marathon will end the way a marathon is meant to end: with a big grin, tears of joy, and carbo-loaded bagels smothered in cream cheese.
And behind me, the frustration, sadness, and confusion that elbowed their way into last year's race will be left in my dust.
– Whitney Eulich, staff writer