I woke up on Monday morning with a plan to guide Lisa for the first half of the Boston Marathon.
Lisa Thompson is an accomplished, visually impaired, masters runner from Houston with a marathon PR of 3:16. The day before Boston, I had the privilege of meeting Lisa and the other members of Team With a Vision, a group of over 20 visually impaired athletes from around the world.
It always amazes me how tight knit the running community can be, and watching the Team With a Vision athletes reconnect, felt like being apart of a big family reunion. During our team meeting, Lisa shared that her main goal was to be able to finish Boston, as she had been battling an injury for the last five weeks that had made her unable to train for a time goal. Lisa also explained that some blind athletes choose to be attached to their guides with a tether, but she preferred for her guide to run closely on her left side. My experience guiding Lisa on April 20th, 2015 taught me numerous life lessons, two of which I wish to share:
1. Never Say Never
The first person that I called after finishing Boston was my dad. When I told him that I had run the entire marathon, he exclaimed, “never say never!” Before Monday, 15 miles was my longest run and if you had asked me that morning if I was capable of running 26.2 miles, I would have said no.
The original plan had been to meet Avi, Lisa’s boyfriend, at 12.5 miles at the guide transfer station. However, a communication mix-up occurred and he was not there when we arrived. Lisa and I continued together and took it mile by mile while waiting for Avi to meet us. I did not think about the possibility of continuing to run until the end, but instead focused on keeping Lisa’s spirits strong as she battled through Boston’s hilly terrain.
It was a unique experience to not think (or worry) about reaching a time goal during a race, but instead focus on helping a fellow runner finish. I spent a large part of the Boston Marathon, talking with Lisa, giving her environmental cues, such as “a pothole is coming up in 3-2-1” or offering words of encouragement. At Mile 11, we passed a runner with a “survivor” bib and her guide. I shared this with Lisa and we acknowledged feeling goosebumps and tremendous gratitude to be a part of Boston.
2. There’s No Place I’d Rather Be Than Here:
This statement has been my mantra for the past few months as I have held various jobs in different locations. It is as a reminder to stay present and thankful for my diverse experiences. While guiding Lisa, I felt proud to call Boston my home, as my mantra matched my footsteps. The Boston community was truly Boston Strong as thousands of spectators cheered on marathoners in the bitter cold, with pouring rain and gray skies. Words can not begin to describe the love and encouragement Lisa and I received on the course. As fellow runners passed us and took note of Lisa’s “blind runner” bib, people offered statements of affirmation. My mantra kept replaying in my head as the miles ticked by and I was surprised to finish without hitting the dreaded marathon “wall.” It was an honor to be a part of Lisa’s Boston Marathon experience and cross the line hand in hand. I look forward to returning to Boston to guide Lisa, if she decides to run next year!