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Boston Marathon 2018 - Judy P Neufeld
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Boston Marathon 2018

I’m running the 2018 Boston Marathon! I never in a million years thought I’d be saying those words out loud.

Hi everyone and thank you for supporting both 261 Fearless and MY running journey! I started running after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 as a way to connect to a city I loved and had recently moved from. It was a way for me to grieve and honor those whose lives were forever changed, including my own friends. It was a way for me to process all those emotions. But I never knew that first one would change my life. The 2018 Boston Marathon will be my 5 year running anniversary and I couldn’t imagine running with any other charity team than 261 Fearless. My whole life’s mission has always been about empowering women and 261 Fearless does just that through connecting women runners across the globe.

 

I never thought I could run a 5k, let alone a 10k, and twelve half marathons (and counting). I remember the day I signed up for my first half marathon thinking it’d be my ONLY one. Now I’m training for my first marathon. Who knows if this will be the first or only marathon I run. But what I do know is that I wouldn’t want to cross my first marathon finish line in ANY other city than Boston.

 

I wrote something on the day I first went for that first run. It’s raw and emotional and vulnerable, but I’m sharing it with you so you get a better picture of my running journey.

 

Thank you again for cheering me on along the way!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

 

Today I laced up my sneakers and went for a run.

 

I ran for Boston.

 

I ran even though I am not a runner. In fact, the last time I actually ran somewhat consistently was in college at Tufts. Oh I would dabble in running every once in a while after college, inspired by my friends who are runners or needing to release some pent up energy and then lace up and go out for 15 minutes or so. But I’d limp home, sore, out of breath, and discouraged.  So I’d stop again.

 

Then last year I got to cheer on a friend while she ran her heart out at the Boston Marathon. It was 95 degrees that day, but she got up, laced up her sneakers, and ran all 26.2 miles. And man was I inspired.

 

I went home after the Marathon again and thought about starting to run again, but the excuses would flood in.

 

“But I’m just not a runner”

 

“I really don’t have a good enough sports bra”

 

“Runners use lingo and products I don’t even know about! What the heck are beans and gels?”

 

“I’m scared/tired/out of shape”

 

And on and on and on.

 

Today, I woke up after one of the worst weeks we’ve all experienced in a while, and felt that inspiration again. My inspiration to run was also a combination of so much pent up emotion from both this week and the months I’ve been away from Boston.  Being in Orlando now, more than a thousand miles away from a place I called home for 12 years, I had to watch as a city I love, a city that filled me with spirit and resilience, a city I met my best friends, a city filled with amazing memories, was terrorized and traumatized. I felt so far away and felt so alone. I had to watch the never ending loop of the bombing images, images during the city-wide lockdown and manhunt, and finally, images of the victims, alone.

 

But I also saw the spirit of Boston rise up again this week. Its strength, camaraderie, compassion, resilience, and oh yes, the sense of humor was there. I saw it every time I logged onto facebook and twitter, every time I texted my friends to make sure they were all okay, and every time I turned on the TV and saw the fearless first responders run into the destruction after the Marathon bombs went off.

 

I’m still trying to process everything that happened this week. The fear, anxiety, sadness, tears (so many tears) and heartache was my never ending loop. But more than anything, I felt so alone and disconnected. Boston was my home for so long and those streets on the news were the streets I would walk down nearly every day. It was so hard to process it all, especially since I don’t have a network or community in Florida yet, like I do on Boston. It was truly surreal.

 

With all those emotions this week, I decided I needed to do something that made me feel more connected to Boston, to my favorite city in the world, after all that happened. But I wasn’t sure what that was yet.

 

So, I went to my regular Saturday morning Zumba class. I went wearing my Red Sox tank top (and secretly my Boston Celtics socks). Then, my fresh-fromNew-York Zumba teacher walked in without her usual Yankee cap this morning. In its place was a crisp Sox hat. Maybe I was the only one who noticed it (I surely was the only one who teared up at the sight), but it mattered. Then we started with a warm up to some kind of a “Sweet Caroline” mix (honestly, who mixes Sweet Caroline?) and it was then that I couldn’t contain my emotion anymore. I felt like the walls were closing in on me, so I left. I felt defeated. I mean, seriously, why couldn’t I get through a Zumba class without crying?

 

As I left the gym, the cool air (it’s actually cool today in Florida) felt so healing. I was determined not to let my teary Zumba experience ruin my day. I thought about everything all my Boston area friends went through this week and how they emerged stronger than ever. I thought about my friend, Jennifer Lemmerman, who lost her brother in the shootout on Thursday night. And our ballroom dance teacher, Adrienne Haslet, who helped teach us our wedding dance, who lost a leg in the attack.  And  I thought about my city, Boston, and the strength it gave me for the twelve years I lived there.

 

It was with that strength that I downloaded a “couch to 5k” program on my iphone, made a playlist, laced up my sneakers, put on my Red Sox hat, and went running.  It was everything I needed it to be. Healing, emotional, challenging.

 

What I realized this morning when I struggled through my first run is that the spirit of Boston lives in me. The strength you build battling for a seat on the T or shoveling a foot of snow every week doesn’t go away. The compassion and camaraderie I used to see at the farmer’s market in Somerville or at Fluff Fest or really at ANY Boston sporting event stayed with me. The resilience I got from navigating the city’s rotaries, sitting in traffic on the Pike, and learning how to dress for 10 degree weather will never go away. It’s there. It’s in me.

 

While I only did Day, 1, Week 1 of the eight week Couch to 5k program, I plan to finish it. And when it gets hard, or I get a cramp (like today), I always have some “Dirty Water” on my playlist to get me through. And to help me celebrate/culminate the program, I am signing up for my first 5k (hopefully in Boston) for early June. It may not be the Boston Marathon I’m pledging to do or even the 10k honoring first responders, but it’s a start. It’s the beginning of a journey for me. A journey that may be difficult at times, but not nearly as difficult as this week was for all of us.  A journey that reminds me that even as far away as I may be, I will always be in Boston in heart and spirit and Boston will always be in me.

 

Love that dirty water. Boston, you’re my home. Let’s finish that race.

About 261 Fearless:
261 Fearless, Inc. is a global non-profit organization founded by pioneer runner Kathrine Switzer. 261 Fearless uses running as a vehicle to empower and unite women globally through the creation of clubs, education programs, communication platforms and events. Through these networking opportunities, 261 Fearless breaks down the barriers of geography and creates a global community for women runners of all abilities to support and talk to each other, encouraging healthy living and a positive sense of self and fearlessness.

 

It is the mission of 261 Fearless to bring active women together through a global supportive community allowing fearless women to pass strength gained from running and walking onto women who are facing challenges and hence sparking a revolution of empowerment. 261 is the symbol that unites us as empowered runners.

I’ll be blogging updates about my journey to and through the 2018 Boston Marathon! To follow along, visit my blog.