Roses for the Boston Marathon

I grew up in Natick, MA, where my family and I would watch the Boston Marathon every year. We'd sit on the tailgate of their Chevy station wagon and watch the runners (Natick sits at mile 10 on the course) while we ate hamburgers. And then I started running myself. I've been running for 39 years, so I guess I became a serious runner at 16.  I decided to run my first Boston in 1978. I had just turned 18 and was a Senior in High School. The age limit was 19, so I ran unofficially. 

I trained hard, despite the warnings of my Cross Country Coach, and had the support of my family. In 1978, there was no problem with having my Father drive me to the start in Hopinkton, park, and then have them drive back to Natick to cheer me on. My Dad devised a "code" for me to shout out to him as I passed them in Natick, to let them know if I was doing alright. It was Beethoven's birth/death dates (1770-1827), which I was able to repeat.   My Father is a violinist and will be 92 years old next month. He still plays the Violin for the Philharmonic Orchestra! 

On top of Heartbreak Hill, around mile 21, I was beginning to feel very fatigued.  But a young man saved the race for me, and at the same time, gave me a fantastic lesson in kindness.  He handed me a red rose. He looked me square in the eye and deliberately handed me a red rose while telling me I was "looking good".  That rose got me through my first Boston. Crying, from his act of kindness, but I completed that race in 3:30, still clutching my rose. The petals had all blown off but I will never forget crossing that finish line,  falling into the arms of my waiting sister, and showing her my red rose. More crying...

I have since run Boston 4 times Officially and completed around 15 other marathons, and countless other races, but that first Boston in 1978 was a life changer for me.

I qualified for the 2016 Boston Marathon this year. I worked really hard to earn it but even though my time qualified, I did not gain entry. They choose only the fastest of the fast and you never know what the cut-off time will be.  My qualifying standard was 4:10 and the word was that 2 min faster would get you in!  It didn't. The cutoff time was 2:28 faster than your qualifying time. In 2012, you had to run 74 sec faster than your qualifying time. In 2014, you had to beat your time by 98 seconds, and in 2015, you had to run 62 seconds faster than your qualifying time. For the 2016 Boston Marathon, 24,032 runners were accepted based on them beating their qualifying times by 2:28 or faster. 4,562 of us were denied entry even though we beat our qualifying times. 

Personally, I was devastated. And I know 4,561 others were as well. But, I'd like to turn that around. I'd like to give back. I'd like to hand out red roses at mile 21 on top of Heartbreak Hill and tell those runners just how awesome and inspiring they all are. But I need to find some of those other disappointed 2016 qualified runners -- I'd love to have them join me!  Family, friends, runners, non-runners... let's spread the kindness and bring back just a little bit of love and humanity into this World. I'm hoping it will be contagious. 

Thanks for reading my tale. I'll meet you at mile 21 with the red roses! I hope you can help.


Katy Abrams
Flagstaff, AZ

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