The morning is early. I look outside. The unrelenting winter gave way to a respite of spring. My outfit is laid out from the night before. Synthetic shirts and shorts designed to wick sweat from my body. No shower is necessary. I rinse my hair and change into my uniform. I load my phone into its armband and set my playlist. I open a KIND bar, the familiar taste of peanut butter giving my body the calories it craves. My friend is visiting. It is early but worth it because it is a morning for friends.
We walk to Harvard Square. Five blocks. We pass the turnstiles. We see others dressed like us. Kindred spirits coming together in the morning for a common purpose. The train arrives. We sit down and share our excitement. The train stops and more people wearing familiar blue and gold bibs join us. We are coming from different places but our destination is the same.
We arrive to the starting line by walking across the Boston Common. Along the way we meet with more friends, old and new. Our backgrounds and abilities might be different but in this morning we are all athletes. Clamoring for camaraderie and a taste of warm weather. We walk through a sea of people to take our place, set at our own pace. Fifteen minutes to start.
Time passes. I stretch. Earbuds in. Playlist set. Watch ready. Gun fires. Anticipation grows. I walk with my group. Three minutes forward towards the starting line. I see it. Two bumps in the road. I pass over them and am off. It feels crowded and I feel trapped. I start sighting paths through the throngs of people. This will not be a straight run but a weave. Right. Left. Slip between two people. I am trying to reach my pace. I am trying to find my people.
Mile one I finally get there. My heart beats fast. Mile two I enjoy the scenery. This feels relaxing, familiar, and different. Mile three I look up. It is the marathon finish line. Not our finish line. The screen says 0.75 miles to go. The moment passes as quickly as it came. My focus moves forward. My chest starts to hurt. My breathing is heavy. My body moves but it feels strangled. Anxiety sets in. I know how to get out of this. I gently inhale through my nose. I exhale through my mouth. I count it. One, two, three. I feel my heart rate back under my control. I turn a corner. The finish line in sight. A few hundred feet of grit and determination stand between me and accomplishment. I push harder, legs move faster, wind passing my head quicker. Target in sight. One hundred feet. Fifty feet. Twenty five feet. I reach my goal. I can finally stop. My body has reached the finish but my breathe is still on the field.