Boston, running and waiting

Boston, running and waiting

I haven't felt this antsy since just before I started maternity leave. As I write this, I'm 10 days out from the Boston Marathon. For the past couple of weeks, I've been ticking off the days until Joe, my dad and I head out East. My longest training run, a 20-miler last Saturday, is done. All of the hardest prep work is done. Whether I'm able to get to the finish line on April 20 will depend mostly on what I have or haven't done in the past several months, not anything I do in the next week-and-a-half.

Now all that's left is the wait.

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August 12 was my last day at the office pre-maternity leave. That evening I packed up, promised my co-workers I'd send baby pictures, and then took the train home to start waiting full-time to meet our son. I was due Monday, Aug. 18.

I remember passing the time in the next two weeks with late-afternoon walks through the college campus near our house. I finally got around to reading John L. Parker's "Once A Runner," a favorite of high school cross country teams, from start to finish. One afternoon, I remember, I just sat quietly on our bed for a while, looking out the window, waiting.

I ran 1 mile on the Sunday Nate was born, as was my routine. It was such a beautiful August morning that I decided to skip church and walk a little extra on my way home, because I figured I wouldn't have the chance to be outside much for the next several days. (My induction was slated for Monday.) I remember feeling that morning kind of like you hope to feel before the start of a race--a "let's go" kind of focus/excitement.

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The thing about the Boston Marathon is, save for a couple of exceptions, you have to qualify for it. You have to run a qualifying time (the time standard depends on your age and gender) at another marathon, and then once you do, you can use that time for the next two years to try to register for Boston. After that window passes, you have to requalify, which means training for at least two more marathons rather than one.

I ran my qualifying time at the Fox Valley Marathon on Sept. 22, 2013. About two months later, happily, I was pregnant.

Registration for this year's Boston opened for my qualifying time last Sept. 12. Because it was my last shot before I'd have to requalify, and because I knew, devastatingly, that I'd have time to train for the race, I submitted an entry. It was 19 days after Nate was born, 17 after he died.

I remember a couple of weeks earlier being at the grocery store for the first time after Joe and I arrived home from the hospital. My doctor hadn't cleared me to run yet, but he had OK'd me to drive. I remember glancing around while I was in a checkout line. There were the women in running tanks and capris who looked like they had just finished a workout; there was the pregnant woman; there were the women tending to little ones. I wasn't any of those, and I felt lost. It seemed like it would be so long until I identified again with these things that mattered so much to me.

I wasn't sure when I signed up for the race if I'd make it. I'm still not. But I'm looking forward to giving it a shot.

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I finished Boston once, in 2008, and it was the most amazing race experience of my life. The atmosphere along the course is unparalleled. I started the race in 2010, achy and knowing full well that I hadn't prepared enough physically or mentally for it. I dropped out around Mile 14.

Like runners sometimes do, I've attached an unnecessary amount of importance to this race. I have to remind myself that it's just one race. There will be others. If I don't make it to the finish--if I decide that nagging knee pain or hamstring pain is too much that day, or if it turns out that I haven't put in enough training miles--I won't be a failure as a runner or as a person. Life will go on. And how I hope it does--after Nate was born, Joe and I were told to wait six months before trying to conceive again. After the race, with gratitude and hope, we'll start on that path.

It's just one race. But it would mean a lot to me.

I'm dedicating, or planning to dedicate, each mile to different people and groups whose love and support help sustain me, and whose strength I admire. I'm hoping that meditating on this will help keep me going and ward off the anxiety and impatience that are counterproductive in a race. "Run the mile you're in," track star and elite road racer Lauren Fleshman says. The marathon is about patience as much as it's about anything else.

My plan is that the first and last miles of Boston will be for Nate. He's with me on every run. The second and 25th miles will be for Joe. They're the greatest things I've ever waited for, and they make the journey worthwhile.

• Christine LaFave Grace works as an editor and writer.

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