There are no hero shots, declares my friend Christina over a Thai food lunch a few weeks after the Boston Marathon. By then, I'm ambling down stairs easily and catching up with friends whom I haven’t seen since my monastic marathon training routine began several months earlier, but the travails of the 26.2-mile trek are still fresh. Christina is referring, specifically, to one particularly painful truth: My pictures look like shit.
Hers do too, she insists (she ran the race just one year prior), and while I can’t vouch for her photos, I can say, with confidence, that mine look at once pained, deranged, and near-dead—and that’s before the finish line. I won’t even address those taken by Om-Mama following the race, back at my apartment. Oh look, there I am, crawling around on all fours. Sweet.
These are not the images that I envisioned, the ones that sustained and motivated me on frigid, dark mornings in February when my only resources for staying warm were picking up the pace or visualizing my triumphant finish on Boylston Street in April (eventually, it would be April, right?). In reality, any photographic evidence of my achievement or elation upon crossing the finish is largely obstructed by some guy name Mike B. (per the duct tape on his shirt). I'm not sure how he managed to set a pick after running 26.2 miles, but he completely blocks what would have been my hero shot. Thanks, dude.
I guffaw into my tom yum soup while Christina and I recount all the horrible photos captured by friends, family, and official photographers along the course. She looks gaunt and dehydrated. I look as though I'm on death's doorstep, or half drunk, or a combination thereof. The drastic contrast between marathon expectations and reality is both comical and disappointing, but it also reveals a great deal about the journey. My race time, for example, is vastly slower than projected, which admittedly remains a sore spot, so does my right hip, but I digress . . .
Having completed my first marathon means a lot to me, but not in the ways that I anticipated or even hoped. Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "The reward of a thing well done is having done it," and that rings true here. I have no hero shots or a time worth boasting, but I have done it.
It's safe to say that I'll never play in a Superbowl or a World Series. I'm terrible at tennis, so Wimbledon is out, and considering my phobia of biking too fast downhill, you won't see me in the Tour de France in this lifetime. But I've run the Boston Marathon, a historic, iconic athletic event, with hundreds of thousands of spectators, who at times- bless them- cheered for me. I shared the road with Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall, Colleen de Reuk, the Hoyts, and all those elite Kenyans. Sure, I was hours behind them, but I understand, on some level, what their journey was like that day, a feeling no photo can capture.