Chasing My Unicorn

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Chasing My Unicorn

Before I start, this blog title was inspired by an afternoon of belly laughs and rehashing memories from three near and dear friends of mine who are affectionately called, my “Pit Crew”. Steph, Erin & Sarah – you are amazing, you make me smile so much, and I could not have been more excited to see you and your beautifully decorated, glittered arts and crafts masterpieces! I love you lots, parking lots!

Here's a picture of my pit crew and I back at the hotel post-marathon:

Now, on to the story. Have you ever wondered why symbol for the Boston Athletic Association is a Unicorn? It could be some sort of an Inception-esque reason that the world in which we live in is all really one big fantasy…This would mean that those 26.2 miles were merely a figment of my imagination…

Hm, maybe not.

It could be (courtesy of the BAA website) that it was chosen by the BAA back in 1887 because the unicorn represents an ideal: something to pursue, but which can never be caught. In pursuit of the Unicorn, however, athletic competitors can approach excellence (but never fully achieve it). It is this pursuit to push oneself to his or her own limit and to the best of one's ability which is at the core of athletics. And for this reason, as the marathon matured, that the B.A.A. also decided that the Unicorn would be the appropriate symbol for the marathon.

Or, it could be that for the purposes of this blog post, to me, it encompasses a combination of both. Unicorns, or fantasies bring us back to our childhood, to our dreams, and that innocent carefree way of approaching life. I was that kid who dreamt about the Boston Marathon—who even dressed up on Halloween as the winner of the Boston Marathon. I took the costume very seriously--- I needed to have a laurel wreath to complete the ensemble. Though, I do admit, trick-or-treating from a wheelchair in a neighborhood of split entry homes is challenging enough, and doing it from a racing wheelchair was even more challenging!

Isn’t it funny though how our dreams take on slightly new characteristics as you go through life? For me, yes, the dream was to win Boston. And while I did not win the race itself, I honestly could not have been happier with the outcome. I, a sprinter, gave it my all and had fun doing it. Sometimes my races are about doing a job, being there to get it done, but this race was different. This race was the culmination of a childhood dream with a challenge I put before myself of whether or not a sprinter could tackle the course with the same gusto and gumption that I carry with me through life.

And wow, what an experience it was! Finishing fourth, earning a huge PR, qualifying with an IPC A standard for the Marathon, and... dare I admit it? Having fun doing it! I could not be more pleased.

Here's a picture from race day:

Almost a month later, I find myself sitting around my apartment thinking a lot about one particular section from Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture. First off, if you have not watched the entire thing, I strongly encourage you to. But, I think back to one of the stories Randy told about this experimental project he was testing out with a group of students where they’d have a semester long project to work on basically whatever they wanted. He eloquently describes the day that they came and did a checkpoint presentation and he described the inner struggle he had because had that been the final project he would have given them all A’s, but he also knew that if this is what they had produced at this point, he knew they could do even better. He even went to discuss with his own mentor to figure out at what height the bar should be at. There are always options, to set a height and settle at that, or to raise it juuuuuust a little bit higher.

I explain all of this because this is something I struggle with; it is the “what’s next” piece. I mean, what do you do when you knock off things from your bucket list and you’ve lived your childhood dreams at age 26? I guess you dream even bigger! But, I, like Randy, struggle with where that target should be. The only thing left on that list from the video from all those years ago is to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated… but I was featured in Runner’s World… dream almost realized.

The last part of my reflection post-Boston Marathon, is on a personal note of how unbelievably blessed I feel to have supporters from all over the world, along the entire 26.2 mile route—even friends of mine who once lived in the area and have since moved on who were avidly tracking my progress online, to new friends and fans who were also receiving text message updates on my progress. I feel like a broken record with all of these thank yous, but the truth is, I would not and could not be where I am today with out all of that support. And those of you were there “back in the day”, who were there for my very first journey barreling down a mountain in a monoski, or who were there for some sort of crazy camping adventure such as camping through a hurricane, or were there through the wet track meets out in Canton, MA or perhaps accompanied me to an emergency room for a visit or two--- thank you.

The best answer that I have right now to the “what’s next” question is that I will gradually shift my focus and energy towards preparations for hopefully making it to London in 2012 for the Paralympic Games. Though before I make that complete shift, I will be back to tackle those Newton Hills this weekend as part of the Heartbreak Hill Race and I'll be there speaking as well, check out more here. I plan to continue doing what I love—educating others, sharing my story but athletically it’s time to start gearing up for London, which is in just 475 days! Ticket prices were in fact announced today, so check it out and come cheer me on in London!

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