As graphic designers, my business partners and I have always made birthday cards for each other. The cards always poked fun, usually had silly and suggestive themes and often included enough gay porn references that we wouldn’t dare take them home to show our wives and children.
For my birthday the year I started running again, Troy and Steve really stretched the limits of their Photoshop skills to put together this little masterpiece, sticking my head on the body of 2002 Boston Marathon champion, Rodgers Rop. I can’t recall if they knew I had dreamed of running Boston when I was younger or if they just came up with the idea because the Boston Marathon is the first thing non-runners think of when they think of running, but it was wonderfully apropos and I laughed my ass off. However, even having laughed my ass off, I was still pushing close to 200 lbs and had only completed a couple of half marathons — which, even if added together, wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere near qualifying for Boston — so actually running the most storied marathon in the world seemed a faint and very distant dream at that point. Still, it gave me a goal and while I don’t think any of the three of us really thought I could do it, we didn’t think I couldn’t do it either.
That card, stuck to the wall next to my screen for the next five months, served as a daily reminder of the goal and as long a shot as it may have seemed in November 2003, I became a believer as I racked up the miles early the following spring. Guys I ran with, especially those who had run Boston before, started to believe. I told myself that if I qualified for Boston in my first marathon, I was going out and buying a Red Sox hat the very next day. Troy even vowed to come to Boston with me if I qualified. The manager at the Running Room at the time scoffed at my chances, so I wanted to qualify if for no other reason that to show him I could!
Well, I qualified with a 3:04:16 in that first marathon. I limped downtown and bought that Red Sox hat the next day — and in an amazing coincidence, the Red Sox would go on to win the World Series that fall for the first time since 1918. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence?
Troy didn’t join me in Boston the following spring, but I got a real boost during the race around Mile 17 as I passed the guys and heard Steve tell him, “I guess you’d better book that flight!” I knew it would be a difficult promise to keep so I couldn’t begrudge his decision, and considering how supportive they had been in the lead up to that marathon — and still are — how could I?