Last year, I deepened my commitment to raising awareness of youth mental health issues and to Samaritans prevention and grief counseling services by running the Boston Marathon in memory of Shaira Yasmin Ali (and the many others I have learned about through this journey). With a lot of help, I raised more than $7500 to keep Samaritans strong.
The story of that day, and my story, are well documented. As much as I love to run, I have gotten so much more out of my efforts than I ever imagined possible. Last year, I showed up at the starting line not sure I'd finish because of a training injury. This year, I plan to start strong and high-five everyone out there to reclaim the day as Boston's Marathon Monday.
When I first started running for Samaritans, at their annual 5k, I was not running as part of a team or carrying any particular loss. I was moved by the communities surrounding lost loved ones who came together to do something. To say names out loud. To raise money so that Samaritans would be there and maybe there wouldn’t be a next time. To be courageous – not everyone is confident about covering 5K on foot.
Samaritans runners come from all walks of life. I consider the immensity of the loss suffered by so many - and the suffering that led so many to the place where there were no other options. But spending time with Samaritans means more than staring into an abyss. Those 5K teams, with support from Samaritans volunteers and staff, radiate courage and hope. Samaritans provide an empowering place for communities to come together to share memories long after the grief is no longer fresh.
And then it got personal. Friends lost their teenage daughter in April, 2012. On Marathon Monday. For two years now, friends and family, from her neighborhood, school and faith communities, have formed a 5K team. Her parents told me that running was #7 on the list of 100 things that make her happy. Team #7 Running has raised more than $2000 for Samaritans.
Running is high on the list of things that make me happy, too.
This Boston will be my fifth marathon (and my second go at crossing that finish line the same day I start in Hopkinton). I hadn't thought I needed to run Boston. Despite living here for more than 25 years and being a runner for most of that time, because I know I'll never qualify I never seriously considered running it. However, even before things got personal, when I learned Samaritans had numbers, the desire to run Boston overwhelmed me.
Boston is the marathon that needs no introduction. Rock stars run Boston. The world pays attention to this marathon. It's the marathon that everyone asks me if I've run, or am going to run, when I say I'm running a marathon. Runners from all over the world and superstars from running history converge. And don't forget the spiffy jackets.
Up until 2:50pm, I was not disappointed. Crowds cheering the entire length of the race, for hours on end, and I was - almost - sad to near the end of such unbridled, unselfish, enthusiasm. A thin layer of "what ifs" separated me from danger that afternoon. In the weeks after, I spoke with many who were impacted in ways large and small. My excitement about the race - and my determination to make sure to cross the finish line in Copley Square this year - I hope serves to honor the lives lost and altered that day.
The BAA has graciously allowed those of us who couldn't finish numbers for 2014 without qualifying or fundraising. However, because I would not have been where I was without Samaritans, and because demand for Samaritan's services has only increased, I am again raising money to support them.
This is Boston, this is Samaritans, and my friends lost their daughter to suicide. For Shaira Yasmin Ali, for all who suffer. Please give generously.
Follow my training via samaritansboston2014.blogspot.com