Running this year’s Boston marathon was very grueling for me. Nothing went right and I finished more than 30 minutes slower than my goal time. As far as marathons go, this one was painful.
Post-marathon, after showering and changing (and maybe a little bit of moping), my partner Kate and I were leaving the hotel for dinner and realized that all of the other athletes in the lobby were wearing their finisher’s medals. I had forgotten that this is a thing. I quickly ran back up to our room to get my medal and put it around my neck.
We went back to the marathon course to cheer on the back-of-packers as they turned onto Boylston. If you haven’t done this before, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my favourite parts about marathons. These runners respond to every clap and every cheer, often pumping their fists in thanks.
After what we thought were the last of the runners, we went out for Mexican dinner. The server saw that I was wearing the finisher’s medal and gave us complimentary churros, which were delicious.
As we walked home from dinner, the streets were being cleared of barricades and stands. The scaffolding around the finish line was being torn down. Officially speaking, the race was over. And then we noticed one lone runner powering down Boylston to the finish. Her shirt read “Tayla. This is my first marathon.” Her race was not over.
Nearly eight hours after she had started in Hopkinton, Tayla put one foot in front of the other, driving towards the finish line. Her family cheered for her and we joined in, running along beside her. We were buoyed and inspired by her perseverance. She crossed the finish line, her arms raised in celebration. Her 26.2 mile journey was complete.
At about the same time, the thought crossed my mind that the organizers may not have any medals left. (I did not know at the time that the BAA typically gives every finisher a medal, regardless of their time.) I just had this feeling, seeing everything already being packed up, that she may not get a medal. And my subsequent thought was this: Tayla 100% deserves a medal. I decided that I would give her mine.
Kate and I walked past the finish where Tayla was hugging her family. We approached her and congratulated her (which would have been impossible earlier in the day, because spectators are strictly separated from runners by fencing and police).
Tayla was beaming. Her joy and pride were infectious and it was impossible not to smile in her presence.
“Congratulations,” I said. “You are amazing.” Tayla confirmed there were no more medals. “This one is yours,” I said, and I took the medal from around my neck and put it around hers. Tayla initially protested, but I had already decided and firmly replied: “This is your first marathon. You have run for nearly eight hours. You deserve this. This medal is yours.”
We shared a big hug and it was not lost on me that this was the best I had ever felt at any marathon. Tayla wore the medal with pride. Kate and I practically floated back to the hotel.
Kate subsequently posted the story on social media, and to my surprise, it was widely shared. Tayla was even on the news the following night!
For Kate, “…this was my first marathon as a spectator and it was thrilling. Kev brought me back to cheer for those who were still running hours after he had finished because he said it’s one of his favourite things to do because it’s so inspiring.”
Since then Tayla and I have received an outpouring of love. It has been such a heartwarming week. And after my own grueling marathon, this whole experience is exactly what my heart needed.
My hope is that people will be inspired to make a point of staying late or coming back to cheer for those athletes finishing later in the race; runners who have worked just as hard as the athletes at the front of the race, and for longer.
Thank you Boston! Thank you marathoners! And congratulations to every single finisher!