I was one of those women carried by heroes in the photos from the 2017 Boston Marathon. This is my story.*
My cheek pressed to the pavement. “Damn,” I said to myself. “I have no excuse. I know better and should have been more prepared.”
I was at mile 11 of the Boston Marathon and a raging disaster of a leg cramp had sent me stumbling across an entire traffic lane of Central Street just past the Natick city limits, tripping on another runner’s shoe in the process and culminating in an epic face plant. I thought I could see the 20k up ahead. If I got up and ate a salt tab there would be a water station nearby and I’d be fine to finish.
Then, as if out of nowhere, large hands were hoisting me up. “Thanks, I think I got it. I just need …”
“It’s okay, I’ve got you from here miss!” a burly man shouted into my face as he held me to his side with one arm.
“Bob’s here for you! Don’t worry about a thing! We’ll get you to that finish …” Bob paused and raised his opposite fist skyward and looked up. I looked up too to see what he was looking at, when he spoke again. “Come hell or high water.”
“Oh thanks a lot,” I mumbled, “but really, I got it. I’m good.”
“Thank you. Really,” I said, wincing as the cramp throbbed in my leg, “But I don’t want your help. I really want to get through this on my own.”
Bob scowled at me under his shaven head. “Hell or high water, I’ll see you through.”
I sighed as he threw my arm around his shoulders and his arm around mine and began dragging me forward.
A mile and a half later, I managed to wrestle away from him as he leaned over to kiss a screaming Wellesley student. I desperately needed to find a water station. “No!” He shouted, chasing me, “I want to help you! Let me help you!!”
Two National Guardsmen dashed out from the sidelines and intercepted me. “Thank goodness!” I panted, “That man won’t let me run on my own!”
“She needs help,” said Bob, grabbing me by the shoulder. “I’m just trying to be a hero here.”
The Guardsmen shared a glance. “A hero?” said one of them, taking my other shoulder. “Awesome,” said the other, lifting my feet off the pavement. “Don’t worry about a thing, ma’am, we’ve got you from here.”
“No please!” I cried. Was this really happening?
“I’m sorry miss, but we can’t let you go on your own,” said one of the two young men in military fatigues. “This is our golden opportunity to be heroes, and we can’t let anything get in the way of helping you.”
I groaned. “Hell or high water!” Bob shouted joyfully as the three of them started trotting along with my body slung like a hammock between them.
Moments later, a very pregnant woman ran past us. “Hey guys!” she chirped. “Way to be heroes!”
“Thanks!” came the self-satisfied chorus from the men carrying me. Meanwhile, I was trying to strategize how to get away without them dropping me headfirst. “Looks like you’re carrying someone too,” said Bob to the pregnant lady.
“Yep, triplets!” She said. “Due in a month. But no sweat, it’s just a marathon.”
“Wow, what an accomplishment,” Bob said. “It must feel so good to be doing this on your own.” The irony was lost on him, but lasted only moments anyway as the pregnant lady stopped and clutched her belly. “Oh no …” she mumbled, eyes wide.
I decided to seize the opportunity. “Hey guys! Looks like she needs a hero way more than me!”
The shuffle to put me down and pick up Julie the Pregnant Lady seemed to take forever, but trotting ahead on my own two feet felt great. I was free! I’d only lost four miles of my race, but I’d also managed to recover from my cramp in the process. Just as I found my stride though, I found myself worrying about leaving a woman in labor with three crazy men who are terrible listeners. Distracted, I stumbled over the prosthetic foot of a runner next to me and found myself flying toward the ground again.
“Oops, I gotchya!” The man with the prosthetic foot caught my arm and kept me upright. “Hey, you’re that lady the soldiers were carrying!”
“Yeah,” I said. “But I’m really okay. I just want to get to the finish …”
“Don’t even worry about it! My name is Cory. I’m already a hero. I’m the perfect person to make sure you get there.”
“Uh … nice to meet you, and you’re certainly inspiring, but …”
Before I could say another word, Cory had slung me across his shoulders like a yoke on an ox and we were trotting along next to Julie and her labor team for miles.
Finally a chance! “HELP!” I screamed desperately toward the Newton fire station. I felt a rush of relief when a firefighter turned in response to my cry. We made eye contact and he motioned that he’d be with me in a moment. He yelled into the fire station and another young male firefighter came out. They tore their shirts off, and just as they approached us, another firefighter came running out with a camera.
The first firefighter whipped out a travel sized baby oil, shined his pectorals and handed it to his shirtless friend. “Whatever,” I told myself trying not to let my eyes roll out of my head, “as long as I can finally run this darn race!”
As the two firefighters approached and their photographer colleague set up the shot, I could almost feel sweet freedom. The two firefighters put their hands on Cory. “Oh no! Don’t hurt him,” I screamed. I just wanted to get down, not for someone to get hurt.
“No worries, ma’am,” said firefighter number one. “We got this.”
Cory seemed confused too, especially since Julie was up ahead lying in the middle of the course pushing and Bob and the National Guard guys were freaking out, unsure where the babies were going to come from. Bob yelled out, “To hell or … I think her water broke!” and then looked like he might scrap the whole hero thing, but one of the National Guard guys said in an attempt to change his mind, “but, Dude, if we can get through this we’re gonna get invited to the White House by President … oh shoot. We can totally score a movie deal though, bruh!”
But then instead of releasing me so they could tend to poor Julie, the two firefighters threw Cory on their shoulders and there I am on the shoulders of a guy on the shoulders of two other guys, two other guys with greasy shiny shoulders!
Just as they got the shot for the 2018 Sexy Hero Firefighters of Boston calendar, Cory, with me still slung over his shoulders, slid off the backs of the firefighters and I managed to make yet another escape just as we approached Heartbreak Hill. They could have at least spared me that.
In the meantime, Julie gave birth while Bob and the fatigue-wearing dudes argued, and was now running while nursing two infants and carrying one strapped to her back with a rigged-up fuel belt, while her wanna-be-heroes tried to catch up begging her to let them carry her and her babes.
Julie had seen the light about their idea of heroics and wasn’t having it and neither was I. Together, we bolted up Heartbreak. I think that’s the fastest I’ve ever run up a hill or otherwise. But as we crested it, and as our heroes pursued us, we ran into a mob of mostly women in maroon shirts. There was nowhere else to go, but straight into it.
As we weaved through all the women in visors and maroon shirts, we came to the eye of the swarm and there she was, in an aura of light. We asked some maroon-shirted people who she was and they said, “She is the most empowering woman who ever existed.” Yes! She would give us the courage to run this race ourselves. She would help us!
Julie, her three infant daughters attached, and I ran toward this woman and she said, “I will pave your way!” Yes! Yes! Finally! And then she said, “Would you like to buy three of these 261sies I have for sale? How about a signed copy of my book? Would you be an ambassad …” Before she could finish, we were out of there.
Luckily, Bob, National Guard guys, Cory, and the firefighters were busy taking selfies with the maroon ladies before they noticed Julie, the triplets and I had escaped the maroon crowd. But they were on our tails for the rest of the race.
Julie, already back in bikini-body shape after giving birth fifteen minutes ago, started dropping 6:20’s with babies attached and I just couldn’t keep up. I had to let her go. At least one … er … four of us would escape.
With my cramping and tripping and fighting, I could only manage to stay one step ahead and by the Citgo sign, the smell of international press photographers fueled my pursuers to catch up and once again insist on their assistance. I didn’t even protest or care anymore. “Whatever, dudes.”
Finally, my eyes lit up as we turned and I saw the finish line. My captors were so busy discussing whether they would rather be on the Today Show or Good Morning America, they didn’t notice as I wriggled out of their grasp to finish on my own. This moment, at least, could be mine. I worked so hard to get here, to this, the Boston Marathon. I trained my ass off, running marathon after marathon trying to whittle down my time, and even if I’d had to concede half the race to these randos, it had still been a feat of strength to endure them.
I bolted ahead of them and crossed the blue and yellow field of the finish line, tears streaming down my cheeks as I hobbled to the medals. “Yes,” I thought. “I deserve a medal for that ridiculous experience.” I was full on sobbing now, standing there almost in shock, contemplating how my Boston Marathon had been robbed by a bunch of self-appointed heroes.
I let out a wail, and just ahead of me a brown ponytail whipped around a pink hat. She bee-lined for me and asked, “Do you need a hug?” Still worried that Bob et al. might again try to use me as their ticket to their mugs on a slide show of heroic moments shared round the word on Facebook, I looked over my shoulder, and saw them quickly approaching from the finish chute. Thinking fast, I let out an emphatic “Yes!” and I pulled hugging lady to me hiding my face and cackling to myself as they passed us by.
The wave of relief lasted only moments though, as the woman hugging me was handing off her phone and asking for a picture. “I won a marathon seven years ago, and this is a great opportunity to relive my glory and celebrate myself on my blog while I selflessly inspire you and all my fans,” she said.
All I could do was cry. I worked so hard for this moment, and as I was just about to surrender and tell the World of Runners reporter how awesome these heroes were and just give them what they wanted, I turned and noticed camera flashes on the other side of the finish area. “I bet they found Julie and her babies,” I thought to myself. But as I studied the scene I realized it was Bob, the National Guardsmen, Cory, the firefighters and the hugging lady with her hand on her hips flanking not Julie and her babies, but …
I turned my head back in disbelief. And while I was still reeling, the reporter asked me, “What was it like being saved by all those heroes?”
“Huh? Hey, do you know where I can get a drink?”
What was your favorite 2017 Boston Marathon moment of heroism?
*Um. This is satire and didn’t really happen … that we know of.