The 124th Boston Marathon was 38 days away when I received an email notifying me of its postponement until Sept. 14, 2020.
I was on week 15 of my 20-week training program and had raised almost all $8,500 for the charity I was running for.
The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) sent a brief email explaining the cancellation three days after Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency on March 10, 2020, due to COVID-19.
News of the cancellation took over the media, shocking those who knew it would be the first time the annual race would be canceled since 1897.
I felt completely defeated.
My friend, who trained and planned to run alongside me for the 26.2 miles, called me in hysterics. We barely had any words to say to each other except for when we were cursing out COVID-19.
Five days after the cancellation, the BAA sent out another email to participants asking us to indicate whether or not we would still participate in the rescheduled marathon. The response was due March 31, giving me the next two-and-a-half weeks to make a decision.
I thought about what led me to run the marathon and the past 15 weeks of training.
Every day of the week had a specific expectation, except for rest days on Mondays and Fridays. Tuesdays and Thursdays were easy runs, never reaching more than five miles; Wednesdays were mid-ranging hill runs, less than 10 miles; Saturdays were long runs and Sundays were cross-training.
We were fixated on the schedule, thinking about how we could fit in runs during the school day or right after. We paid attention to every meal and every ounce of water consumed, and even committed to trying every caffeinated running-gummy we could find for energy on long runs.
The part that stood out the most though was the charity and team I was running for.
My cousin introduced me to the Last Call Foundation (LCF), created in memory of a fallen firefighter, with the mission to provide funding and research to support the firefighting community.
It was a small team, including family members and friends of the fallen hero. I felt a connection to them, as my cousin is a firefighter and EMT, but I never imagined how welcomed and inspired I would be by the people I met.
I was easily the youngest on the team, but I never felt out of place. I remember feeling so nervous as I walked into our team kickoff event. It was in a room where everyone was over 30-years-old and I knew nobody, but the team manager found me immediately. She looked out for me from the start and told me I should come to the team runs.
Our team runs on Saturday mornings epitomized what it meant to run in the Boston Marathon.
My team would meet at the Under Armour store at the Prudential Center at 8 a.m., all bundled up for the winter weather. The head of CharityTeams, a combined group of smaller teams participating in the marathon, would give an encouraging speech and inspiration for why we run. Sometimes the encouragement came from a person at one of the charities, a story she would share or something we had to find within ourselves.
The run was never easy—always over 10 miles long in freezing temperatures—but I was never alone. I was surrounded by people who were so happy and motivated to encourage each other, people who had also been training and fundraising for amazing organizations. The environment and the people I met taught me about so much more than just running. Being a part of that, something so positive and so much bigger than myself, is something I will take with me forever.
Despite never crossing the finish line on Boylston Street that year, I look back on the experience as one of the most formative and proud moments of my life.