Someone out on Heartbreak Hill stopped by our L Street Water Stop and asked if he could take a cup of water. We said of course. He looked at the table we had carefully and lovingly prepared and with a sweep of his arms he asked, "What inspires you? Why do you do this?"
Our first answer was - you - you inspire us. He was dripping sweat and had one more hill to run in the series of hills known as the infamous Heartbreak Hill before finishing his long run from Hopkinton to Boston College for a total of 22 miles.
When I got home, I gave some pause to the answer to that question.
We got up early on a Sunday morning and loaded up all of the supplies into our car. We drove over to Heartbreak Hill and set up table, poured water and gatorade and poured skittles, pretzels, cookie thins and swedish fish into bowls. We had ibuprofen, vaseline, tissues - lots of tissues and paper towel and trash bags.
We had a wonderful water stop partnership today with the family of one of L Street's members who did the long run while they did the water stop. We became fast friends. We talked about where were you last year and anticipation of this year's marathon. They embraced me and my story and said they couldn't wait to read my memoir. We laughed together as our water stop partner did running fashion commentary. When one runner who we didn't know asked if he could leave his runner's backpack with us we collectively held our breath. He could see that we didn't want him to drop off his bag with us so instead he took out the water bottles and left them. We talked about how everything has changed since 4/15/13.
We sent them on their way as the numbers dwindled and waited for a total of 3 hours to make sure the very last runner had a water stop available to them.
And I remember when...
When I was training for the 2009 Boston Marathon, there were often times when the water tables were pulled up during training runs because I was a real back of the packer but during my first 5 miler; the Marathon Sports 5 miler, Alison, the then manager of the Brookline Marathon Sports store waited until we went through to make sure we had our hydration.
When we went out and back to Heartbreak Hill for the first time, Alison was there to greet us when we returned to the store letting us know she was worried about us. I knew how she felt because I was waiting for my friend Tina to come through. Once she arrived she said, no worries, I'm slow and steady!
The President of L Street was in the back of the pack and she expressed a heartfelt thank you for us staying out there and for all we did for the Club.
We felt so much joy greeting runners from L Street and runners who were "running alone" as they told us. I told one woman, "You never run alone because #weruntogether." She smiled through the pain of her screaming quads. It was a joy to ask runners what they needed and to have what they needed on hand. Thank you to one of the L Street members who posted the shopping list on the homepage of the website. Ibuprofen was consumed, vaseline used to ease chafing and chapping. As one member said she didn't want to eat anything because her stomach was queasy (a feeling I remember all too well), I suggested pretzels with the salt that might help to settle her stomach.
There was one runner who came up from Atlanta to see what these hills were all about. He was so happy to partake of our offerings.
So while we were paying it forward for all of the love and support we received on our road to the Boston Marathon, we received so much in return. Sure, I could bemoan the fact that I can no longer run more than a 10K but I'd rather celebrate that I am back out on the roads; more importantly I get to pay it forward being a part of support crew.