Marathon Monday and a thank-you

It takes a village to raise a child.

That is one of my favorite quotes. I don’t know who said it, I think I always assumed it was Gandhi or Oprah or someone of that caliber because I think it is absolutely brilliant.

Two weeks ago today, I woke up in Boston, shuffled my feet down the hotel hallway, and went to brunch with my best friend. We met two inspiring mom-marathoners, Raych and Julie, and had the kind of afternoon that I’ll tell my future children about. I got to run in the 121st Boston Marathon the Monday before. It was an absolute dream-come-true, and I start crying happy tears (something very not normal) whenever I talk about it.

I could write about my journey and where I came from and walked from and ran to, and why it was so sweet and special and significant to me, but I’ll save that for another time (slash, I’ve written about it here and here, so I’m trying to avoid being redundant).

This is what I want everyone to hear though: it takes a village. While I got to post the fun Instagram and run the not-so-fun mileage, there was a team of people behind me who made it beyond possible. My shirt said Erica on it, but my heart and mind were composed of all of the people who believed in me. It, quite literally, took a village to get me the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to downtown Boston, and I want to honor some of my home team because, ultimately, training is not glamorous. Waking up alone at 4 AM to run for several hours is not fun. Picking at your blistery feet in public is not sexy (and something I’m trying to work on, I promise). Making your friends massage your calves is annoying.

On race day, though, you don’t see that. You see the glamour and the beauty and the finished product, but during the hundred days before that, you experience the dirt and the exhaustion and the conscious choice: the choice to keep going.

To the people below and so many more, thanks for helping me choose to fight and to chase my dreams. I’m better because of you, and know Jesus more fully due to you.

To The Boston Bruins Foundation, thank you for letting me run for something I care about and am proud to be a part of. Thank you for letting all of us represent an incredible cause and meet equally incredible people. To my team who I met at 5 AM, who braided my hair, and who I walked to the starting line with — you are some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Your resilience, kindness, and ambition have profoundly impacted me.

To my southern family and the people who have put me on their backs for the past four years —  I love you, Gardner fam. You will never understand my gratitude, as I will never fully grasp your unconditional kindness. To begin marathon weekend by walking into warm pad-Thai and a glass of red wine (ready and poured, people), there’s no greater joy. To the life chats, being a safe place, and being the first and last stop for me during the most incredible weekend — thank you. Atlanta will always be home because of you, Allie, Dee, not the cat, Anna, and John.

To the people who made me fall in love with Boston a year ago, who have continually shown me relentless love and care, family-like sarcasm, and know me so well, I am beyond grateful to you, my Rathje family. One of the things I admire most are individuals who show up for their people, and that’s you all. From picking us up at the airport, buying us bagels, making our beds, and taking off work to watch us run (like, WHAT!) — I truly don’t know how I got so lucky. You will never understand how many times I whispered to myself, Mile 15, E. Get to mile 15, as I ran. You all are encouraging, healing, and feel a little bit like home. Karen, you words as I jumped into your arms and ran onto mile 16 were simple and true: Give it to Jesus.

Kaylee — my favorite thing is when people say, Oh yeah, Kaylee is your co-leader. Are you all good friends? Then on cue, Kaylee and I soft-smile and eventually just fully burst into laughter, as she is one of my dearest friends, biggest prayer warriors, and popping up on my phone with a text or joke or call 24/7. For the 5:50 AM pure barre classes (that only you would bear with me), for grace, for standing with me, for kneeling in prayer, for letting me whine, for sending text updates of poems and puns every few miles the entire race, and for lifting me up in the CRV & Flex — thanks, but that doesn’t begin to touch the surface of what I feel. My jewel and my crown, I love you!

Bos note

To the above person, thank you. I desperately want to know who you are, but that’s probably the point. This gave me hope during a night I wanted to quit and gave me belief after a run that rocked me. It helped get me to Boston.

Lauren & AK, also known as the faithful women who witness my worst — thank you. When you live with someone, you also take on their burdens, triumphs, pains, and joys, and you girls are the definition of a strong foundation. You guys have experienced the least sexy side of it all and have put up with far more than what was in our leases. Thank you for letting me go to bed in the middle of conversations, brew pots of coffee at all hours, vent about my own self-induced torture, voice every doubt, fear, and insecurity in my mind, and leave every day feeling encouraged, loved, and believed in. You’ve made a house a home and have given me (and my soul) a place of rest. 620 forever, please.

To Lex, Kels, and Molly, and from Tuscaloosa to Tampa to the Cayman Islands to Miami to Dallas and beyond: thank you. You guys are my safe space, my greatest friends, my honeys and my resting spot. You keep me grounded in what matters, surrounded in love, and supported always (while simultaneously being made fun of). You guys are the first to stand up for me, stand beside me, watch tracker-Erica run online, and put up with way more than most normal best friends have to. Words will fail me, but dragonflies, Eric, 5, tropical storms, coffee, and you all will not. Thank you for being my heart’s home. I love you all to Boston and to Bulgaria and back, like, 1,000,000 times.

I have so tangibly seen the Lord in Caroline and Jesse. You two are the purest proof of the Lord’s sovereignty, plain and simple. My deepest prayer as I left for Boston this past summer was to find a friend who would hang out with me and talk about Jesus. You’ll never fully understand the hands and feet of Jesus and the selflessness you all have shown me — 4 AM airport drives, completely inviting me into your life and making me fall in love with BC and all your friends, peeling green beans and watching the Olympics, and then standing at a Bruins game to sell Split-the-Pot tickets on my behalf. Oh, also, mile 21. Do you guys remember mile 21? I think that’s where you made large signs about butt tattoos and sprinted next to me with a guardrail separating us? I do remember it, because in that moment it gave me hope and joy. I do remember it, because I’ve never run a more challenging course, and I had never been so close to crossing the line while flirting with my breaking-point, when I ran into you all. Thanks for healing me, helping me, then holding me back up again. From grace to mercy, I have never met sisters quite like you.

Someone once told me that community is where your mountains are picked up and get carried and shoved into the ocean. Well, Autumn, you single-handedly have helped me chuck every mountain into the ocean. Thank you for being sisterhood at the purest form and deepest level; I’m proud to know and love you. To Pi Phi, you have given me a family 550 miles from home and a support system like never before. To finish a race and be so overwhelmed with love is impossible to put into words — thank you for knowing me and loving me.

Martin Family, you made my dream a reality and helped create a weekend that will probably top my wedding weekend (sorry, future Husband). For caring for me, for putting up with nerves and random mood swings, for waiting while I puke and helping me walk post-puke (sorry about that) . . . for letting us Uber the hilly-parts of the course and see a game at Fenway and eat the best Italian food and have the most perfect 32nd floor room — words will fail me. Thanks for being there for the in-between, for dropping everything for a CVS run, for reassuring us and reaffirming us. I am so grateful.

Naturally, the two greatest siblings in the game will be mentioned. Soph & Zach, you keep me sane, show me tangible examples of hard-work, and make me so proud to be a Boden. Sophia, thank you for live-tweeting the event, for being my best friend, and for making me laugh at all of my breaking points. You make life so incredibly light and fun. Zach, before my first middle-school track meet (I still thought I could run short distances at this point), you gave me one of the best lines of advice I’ve ever taken in: Sprint the finish. It’s a line that has overflowed into every area of my life — of sprinting through and finishing well — but it’s also what was on auto-play in my mind for the last several miles. Even when you’re crumbling, always sprint the finish.

To Mom & Dad, like there are better parents in the world. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it at least a quarter-million more times: I won the parent lottery. Thank you for getting behind every dream of mine, for being my advocates and my realists, for parenting the least-parentable child ever, and for giving up your entire lives for you kids. Thank you for keeping it real, for being a home to every Mason High School student ever, for reminding us that we are infinitely more loved than we realize, but also not half as cool as we actually think we are. Dad, not many girls get to say they ran a couple half’s and their first full-marathon with their father. I fortunately do. I love you all, so much.

LAST, but not actually last, and 100% not least, my Boston-buddy, best friend, the human that helped breathe life into my dreams, stood by me when I finished my first marathon, took every panicky phone call, jumps behind every “big idea” of mine and so much more. Tori, you are a picture of refined friendship. I’ve never met anyone so willing to lie down their life and support someone, whatever the cost. To fielding every doubt, worry, whine, no-I-can’t-do-this, and fear — to then lying in bed the night before like two middle-school girls, wide-eyed and unable to fall asleep with anticipation. You are the toughest person I know, an inspiration to me, and my role model. You make average things insanely exciting, have irrational theories about gaining weight while training, and remind me to run hard and fast after everything. Long live, the best weekend. There was no one else I would have been able to do that with. From JV cross country to the Boston finishing line, I love you, my dawg.

To everyone who contributed to the most epic 26.2 Spotify playlist of all time, donated to the Bruins foundation, texted me before (and during and after) — thanks for believing in me. To B, my Young Life team, Kass, Ryan, Cassie and Delph, Meghan, and Bri — thanks for being my sounding boards, biggest supporters, swim coaches, fundraising and brainstorming extraordinaires, and best friends. I love you all so much.

To my sweet Jesus, Thy will.


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