Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Last Mile

An Open Letter To A Wonderful Woman 

Dear Cara,

Many people are in mourning today. Be it family or friends, or anyone who saw you flash a smile. The many lives you have touched. The joy you brought to your family or to those involved in swimming, running or your coworkers alike. You were one of a kind.

I'm saddened to say the time I got to spend with you was far too brief. I feel fortunate enough to have had the extreme pleasure of meeting you. Unfortunately, my social skills at the time were limited than most people. My sincerest apology for not getting to know you as well as I could have.

The first time our paths crossed was in August 2009. It was following the Falmouth Road Race. You and I ran for The Run For Research Team for that race. We gathered at The British Beer Company for some post race drinks. It was there I saw how down to earth and wholesome you were. All with a smile that could not be forgotten. I was stoked that I ran about a 13 minute PR from the previous year. Meeting you after the race made the day complete.

A year later we met again. It was for an early evening run out of the defunct City Sports in Boston. The run was 5 miles around The Charles River. Toward the end of the run we were side by side. Not a word was said verbally. We let the running do the talking. As if to say, "Keep up the pace, let's finish strong!" We spoke briefly following the run. I commended you for a job well done.

That fall you made the commitment to run The Boston Marathon for The American Liver Foundation's RFR Team. You were ready to run the most famous marathon in the world. Your first one. As a member of The Runners Council, I was thrilled you were on the team. Raising a substantial amount of money to fight liver disease wan't your only purpose. You were honoring the memory of your sister Laura, for whom you lost to the dreaded disease.

Your presence on the team was strongly felt. Especially on those cold winter Saturday mornings for long runs out of Fit Corp. Despite all the snow we got that winter, it didn't stop us as a team from training for the ultimate goal...the 115th running of The Boston Marathon!

Finally it was the day all team members had circled on their calendars, April 18, 2011. After months of studying, it was time for the final exam. 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston. You were more than ready. The running gods were on our side that day. A beautiful sunny day with temperatures in the low to mid 50's. The biggest reward was a strong tail wind that gave us a nice boost.

The biggest highlight for the team is our cheering section at Newton/Wellesley Hospital near mile 17. There a photo was taken showing all your emotion. It wasn't just simply running the marathon, but doing so in Laura's memory.

It was a memorable day for me as well. I was having a better than expected race. As I got into Kenmore Square, I spotted my parents in their usual spot. Near the One Mile To Go sign. Every year their presence gave me that extra motivation to finish strong.  Little did I know I was moments away from a moment that will be etched in my mind forever. 

As I was approaching the tunnel where Commonwealth Ave goes below Mass Ave, something caught my eye. I spotted a orange Run For Research singlet. I began to get closer and discovered it was you. Having run about 25.3 miles I was certainly feeling it. I knew right then and there I had to say something. I don't remember what I exactly said, but I do remember yelling out "You got this!!" At that moment you turned your head to the left as I went by. It was then I saw a look of sheer determination like I've never seen before. It was your way of quietly saying "I've trained for months through a harsh winter. I'm running my first marathon for my family, my friends, my donors and in Laura's memory. I'm tired, but have less than a mile to go and I'm going to finish this thing dammit!!"

I continued on, right on Herrford, left on Boyalston. When it was all said and done, I attained a new marathon PR. What's more important is, this day belonged to you. You finished your first marathon, The Boston Marathon. You carried Laura's memory for 26.2 miles. You made her proud. A big smile from the heavens. 

I finally had the opportunity to congratulate you on your accomplishment at the end of the year get together at the Pour House a week later. I remember you telling me how tired you were and couldn't get a word in. You didn't have to. I saw it all on your face the last mile. We high fived to congratulate one another on a great year. As it turned out, it was my last. In my three years it was the most special. You made it special. You have an incredible aura that brings out the best in people. Makes them happy, makes them stronger.

I was hopefull I'd see you sometime again. Unfortunately it turned out to be the last. You will forever be in those you have touched minds and heart. To those fortunate enough to have run the Boston Marathon has at least one special moment. In the three years I ran, seeing your look of determination is my Boston Marathon moment. If I do run it again, your spirit will always be on the course. Especially entering the tunnel in the last mile.

Before I let you go, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Katherine Switzer. She was determined to run the Boston Marathon in spite of a strict no women rule. She defied all resistance and finished! Her race number was 261. This year the BAA retired that number permanently. If only all future marathoners knew how privileged they were to wear your number 21829. To me that number will always have a special place in history. No matter who runs with it.

My deepest condolences to your parents Jim and Ann, your sisters Drew and Laura, your husband Dan and your baby daughter Claire. You will always be remembered as a strong and beautiful woman. Someone who refused to give up and surrender and fought until the end. May you rest in peace.


Your teamate