The final mile of the Boston Marathon passed in a whirlwind, almost literally.
The wind had picked up, the rain continued to blur my vision, and my body felt destroyed. I'd given up miles back trying to open another packet of energy gel because I couldn't get my fingers to function nimbly enough. I don't remember the song that played on my iPod in that mile. I'd sort of erased all things since running past my family.
I just wanted to be done. I wanted to be wrapped up in hugs -- and blankets and a hot shower and maybe a fireplace for good measure. Misery bubbled under the surface. I took a quick peek at my watch with a half mile to go, surprised that I'd managed to keep a decent overall time, and wished for the finish line so it'd be over.
At some point in a person's Boston Marathon journey, they learn about the famous last turns of the race. Right on Hereford, left of Boylston. You see it on t-shirts -- I actually have a few. I read about it in books. I snapped a photo of the intersection of Hereford and Boylston two days before the race.
That magical moment approached.
As I reached Hereford, the crowd thickened. I forced myself to be acutely aware of what was happening around me, though to this day it's still a blur. Hereford to Boylston felt uphill, and at that point, like a mountain. No one warns you about "right on Hereford."
But then there it was. Boylston Street. I'd made it that far. It hurt, and I still had blocks to go, but goddammit, there was Boylston.
I had to look up. I had to look at it. I had to remind myself to look up and look at it. Though it was forced, and though I had to drag myself out of an exhausted fog and into the present moment, I rounded that turn and found the smallest squeak of pure joy.
Once I opened my eyes to find the finish, it quite suddenly appeared approximately 1,843 miles away. Wasn't this just blocks a few days ago? Did Boylston Street extend? Can I get a do-over? Mom?
That blue and gold finish line looked so, so sweet to sore eyes, but so far away. I'd pretty much frozen myself into the classic arms-up position, so I just rode it all the way, growing more and more exasperated by the things happening around me.
The crowd is unreal. The noise. The finishers. The tired legs. Every detail during that stretch of time is magnified and overwhelming.
The elites had already powered down this same stretch of road. My feet pounding the same pavement. Meb! Shalane! Unbeknownst to me at the time, friends had already come through, smashing their personal goals that day.
I've read all about the infamous "duel in the sun" between Dick Beardsley and Alberto Salazar during the 1982 race, as they fought for the win all the way down Boylston (not to mention the previous 26 miles).
And it's impossible not to feel it in your gut while passing the former location of the Forum restaurant and the crowd in front of Marathon Sports -- the ill-fated sites of the bombings two years prior.
We all shared one commonality along those few blocks -- the Boston Marathon finish.
So very, very much has happened on that very stretch of road, and there I went, hobbling my way down it, arms in the air, feeling like a soggy, pained noodle.
But there I went. And there I finished.
I finished the Boston Marathon.
Somewhere in the commotion, a kind man wrapped me in my Mylar cape, adorned with the Boston Marathon unicorn, after a woman hung the medal around my neck.
Frozen, drenched, and exhausted, but I had my prized possessions. I'd fought hard for them.
My Boston Marathon moment had ended, but I'm determined to go back. Not in 2016, maybe in 2017. But I'll be there once more, and I'll fight for redemption on those hills. I'll remember to smile more and expect a tough battle. I'll run down Boylston Street again.
Was my Boston Marathon experience everything I'd ever dreamed of? Not necessarily. But I blame my larger than life dreaming.
However, my dad once told me, quite recently, "it's the tough races that make you stronger."
And it's this moment, just before crossing the finish, that I'll remember forever.