“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
― Henry James
26.2 can mean a lot of things to many runners and through the tens of thousands of steps a marathoner takes, each experience their own mix of emotions and some struggle. No doubt each runner has her own personal motivation to complete the race, but it is common for this motivation to ebb and flow through the miles, typically waning around mile 20: “the wall”.
Katy Abrams grew up in Natick, MA during the 70’s. Every April, she and her family would sit on the tailgate of the Chevy station wagon and eat hamburgers while cheering the runners through mile marker ten. With the spirit of running filling her soul, she decided to run high school track and field on her recently added girls track and field team thanks to Title IX.
During Katy’s senior year of high school in 1978, she decided with the support of her family but against the guidance of her coach to toe the starting line of the Boston Marathon, the oldest annual marathon in the world. Her father dropped her off at Hopkinton Park and drove back to Natick in the Chevy station wagon to cheer her on.
Like most marathoners around mile 21, Katy was succumbing to the accumulated fatigue and glycogen depletion of the previous 21 miles, enough to stifle the most motivated. Most call this point of mental and physical fatigue, “the wall”. Unfortunately the runners of Boston typically hit “the wall” at mile 21’s “Heartbreak Hill” exacerbating the impact of “hitting the wall”.
Emotionally and physically drained, Katy was questioning her motivation to continue until a young man at the top of Heartbreak Hill saved her race. The young man looked her square in the eye and said “looking good”, a common phrase many runners hear and quickly dismiss. But what made this moment remarkable to Katy, was that she felt the gesture was deliberate as he handed her a rose.
Brought to tears by this random man’s act of kindness and empathy, Katy clenched the rose with her motivation restored for the next 5.2 miles finishing the race. Upon finishing at the Prudential Center where her sister was waiting, she noticed that she was still holding the rose, now with all the pedals blown off and still wiping away the tears. Her first marathon was completed with an important act of kindness that she still holds to heart this day.
Twenty-nine years later, Katy has since run countless half marathon, 5ks and 10ks, triathlons, and 15 marathons with 4 official Boston Marathons. This year she had aspirations to run Boston and applied with a time of 4:08:20, 1 minute and 40 seconds faster than the 55 year old qualifying time needed (4:10:00). However, because of the surplus runners that have been applying to Boston in the past few years, the race organizers were only able to accept times for her age group 4:07:32 and faster, thus Katy missed acceptance by 48 seconds along with 4,562 others who also achieved their qualifying time.
This year Katy is still going to Boston but not as a competitor; she will be passing out roses at mile 21 spreading the same kindness that got her through her first marathon 29 years ago. She hopes the message is contagious and is looking for as many others to join her to spread some contagious love and humanity in this world.
If you are already running Boston, keep a close eye out at the top of Heartbreak hill for Katy and the red roses. However, if you are not running Boston, Katy is looking for as many others to help her pass out roses. If you are unable to join but still would like to learn more, be a part of the rose crew in spirit, or donate (she currently needs $698 for 1000 roses, any excess contributions will go to the 2012 Boston Marathon bombing victims), visit her Facebook and GoFundMe pages.