People ask me all the time, what is Mile 25? Is it a charity, a club, the distance of a marathon? I respond no and depending on their sincerity for an answer, I tell them…clarity.
I stood motionless, as I watched runners continue to the 2009 Boston Marathon finish line. It had taken me two years to reach this place on the route after a sudden illness weeks before, prevented me running my first marathon. Yet, there I was, in pain and unable to gather the strength to continue. For a brief moment, I had decided to quit. When I looked up, I noticed the iconic red and orange Citgo triangle. To my right, Fenway Park in the distance. I realized I was at mile 25 of the marathon. With a little over a mile left, and after 2 years of hard work, I told myself find a way to finish. I commanded my body to start running, but after a couple of steps, I stopped. I tried again and again, with no success. I don’t remember a time in my life that I felt more defeated. Minutes felt like hours. I desperately searched for the littlest bit of hope to give me the confidence to continue. I took my hands off my knees, lifted my head and lunged forward with a yell of pain and belief. This time I didn’t stop until the finish line.
Two years later I stood on that same spot. It happens to be the location where some of the Jimmy Fund Client’s patients cheer on the Dana-Farber Marathon Team. This time I was hugging my Dana-Farber marathon partner, Brendan. He was 10 years old patient being treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the Jimmy Fund Clinic. Over the past months, Brendan and his family brought me into their world of a child with Leukemia. Brendan would walk me through the different treatments and protocols he would follow. He would explain to me about the different drugs that he would have to take. He showed me the tubes, the scars and the other pains of cancer that people like me leave behind the curtain not to see. Our time spent together was not all about cancer. Our families have gone out to dinner, he showed me his Lego creations that helped him during his long hours at the hospital, and we talked a lot about the running and school.
In that moment, I realized the Boston Marathon is no longer about me. It is about Brendan, and so many people like him. It is about empathizing with the millions who are battling cancer every day. Mile 25 represents sharing personal opportunities to help others in ways bigger than we may ever fully understand.
Hopefully you will want to be a part of Mile 25 by finding your own opportunities and sharing it with someone.