Why I'm not running the Boston Marathon

Dear Boston,

I'm signaling timeout, calling for a station break, taking a breather – boy, that’s easier to write than to say I’m not coming back this year, but that’s what it means.

For seven consecutive years, I've made my pilgrimage. Frankly, it’s amazing we stuck together so long. It’s been quite a relationship. I foolishly flung myself at you the first time we met, swept up in the wave of a juiced-up crowd, the camaraderie of runners and a downhill start that plunged like J-Lo’s neckline on Grammy night. It still qualifies as perhaps the stupidest race I have ever run – I hobbled to the T carrying the weight of an obese positive split, and professed to complete strangers I hated you. I was over you. Done with you – and every other marathon to ever be run in my lifetime – forever.

I left you. Came back to Texas. I considered getting to know you. You were different than the rest – more layered than a complex baklava. You’re complicated, like a 750-piece puzzle best worked by tinkering and figuring out what fits and what doesn’t. I began to appreciate your nuances. How scaling back on a downhill start meant my quads weren’t ground beef. How to skirt the line between basking in rock star treatment at Wellesley, but not getting too drunk on it and pacing too fast – I cut myself off at happily buzzed. How with proper training, running your hills meant opportunities to be seized, not obstacles to avoid.

I started to like you. I proclaimed I’d be back to visit until I was too old, sick or dead to run your hills. Yes, I wrote that. And at the time, I thought I meant it.

But my times stalled, and in some cases were going in the wrong direction. I trained harder, and I got a little injured. I trained smarter, and you threw ridiculously hot weather at me. Plus you’re an expensive date. In 2013, I returned to do the honorable thing: Run a respectable race, and tell you goodbye in person. I left the finish line on a perfect day basking in the crowd noise for an extra moment. I bid you farewell.

Forty-nine minutes later it all changed. The twin bombings attacked you, and in the process, the core of my core values. I stood slackjawed in my hotel room in Cambridge and watched the chaos. I sobbed from places that are deeper than deep. Tears from the depths of my soul –  a place so far-reaching that you drudge up stuff you held on to – beginning with death of your first dog when you were just 5 years old.  For you, out spilled the biggest gully washer.

You changed me that day. I called my parents, hugged my son a lot tighter and I considered how I wanted and didn’t want to live. You stripped me of my veneer of innocence - a Band-Aid prematurely yanked off a wound, making you gasp. But as Ernest Hemingway powerfully and beautifully wrote this crazy world breaks all of us, and we have to find strength in broken places.

I couldn’t leave you yet. I needed to see how strong you were. How strong I was.


You were no longer just “Boston Strong,” you were simply stronger. I not only felt safe, but secure running down Boylston Street last year. I crossed the finish line, and the physical and emotional wave crashed. I sobbed. Not for sadness, but for the joy of it all. Running an extraordinary 26.2-mile parade of humanity witnessed by a million spectators effusive in their civic pride for you.

I’ll miss you. But I’m on a training hiatus, running for the sake of upticking my heartbeat, feeling myself sweat and kick starting some endorphins.

I’ve spent less time on the roads and more on the trails flanked only by Mother Nature. It’s weightless running without a watch, scampering like a 10-year-old tramping through the woods. And I don’t feel guilty for not running 50 miles the week I went to visit my parents. I think it was a good choice to have an extra cup of coffee with them in lieu of a 20-mile long run that I would have otherwise felt compelled to finish.  I’m 45, and I’m slowing down a bit. While my PR days are likely in my rearview mirror, my best days are still to come. Not running is more than a decision not to run a race. It means I’m willing to question what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I’m making more time for other things – running my first-ever trail half marathon was equal parts fun and technical with inclines like Monkey’s Butt Hill; I’ve enrolled in additional yoga teacher training, because the charge of teaching a group of enthusiastic students can rival the endorphin rush of a killer track workout; and I want time with my son, who is fast approaching an age where he will want me to walk behind him, way behind him, not beside him.

I’ll think of you on Marathon Monday and the trek from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. In retrospect, my finish times mean precious little, it’s all kind of a blur. Kind of like life. The miles are kind of a mish-mash of the day-in-day-out living, with occasional startling nuggets of individual heartbreaking and heartfelt moments in your journey. You’ve given me those in spades. And for that, I will always love you, Boston. But the time has come to let go of what I always think will happen in life. It's time to enjoy what actually is happening. 

love is louder

Judy Carson
- 2015-03-20 at 10:47

Very articulate in this part of life's journey and lessons. Beautifully fluid expression of feelings and thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing.
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