Do you want to wear it? The words shocked me a bit. Jeff Thomas was holding his Boston Marathon finisher medal out and offering it for me to try on. Like a vampire shrinking away from garlic or crosses, or whatever scorches their skin these days, I avoided that blue and yellow medal. It was a week after the 2013 finish-line bombing, and I was attending a mini marathon celebration which Jeff had invited me to at Rotolo’s in Shreveport. Jeff, Wallace Robertson and Shane Huff all had their medals on. But I declined any contact with that precious finisher medal. Running superstitions are real.
I’ve always been slightly superstitious. Some might call my habits more like a mild form of OCD. Sporting events were always stressful when I was young. If the Dallas Cowboys trailed at halftime, I changed shirts. Or hats. Or where I was sitting.
Covering sporting events forced me to get away from any team-based superstitions. I was jotting down future questions and writing and rewriting my lede instead of worrying about how my clothing choices were affecting the on-field action.
Maybe it’s because I’m older, and maybe I just don’t care about sports as much, but now I don’t get crazy about “my teams.” It could also be the annual disappointment those squads bring.
Those superstitions grew from a helpless feeling. Watching your favorite sports team can be a roller coaster. I know I’m not alone here. There are a multitude of stories about superstitious fans out there. At the base level, though, lucky boxers or facial hair or anything else won’t make a difference.
Running is different. I am along on the race course, which presents a mental and physical battle. If certain superstitions help me feel more at ease, there is a direct link to better racing outcomes. Right?
In that light, my running superstitions are in peak form.
I never wear a race shirt before I have completed the event. I cringe when I see runners racing in the finisher shirt.
Boston is my ultimate superstition test, however.
I received several Boston 2017 items for Christmas. And I have procured a few more items through my job working in run specialty (thanks New Balance!).
Adidas makes the official Boston Marathon celebration jacket. Each year it comes out in a new color. That jacket is the telltale sign of a Boston finisher. Mine, the one I haven’t earned yet, has been hanging in my closet for almost four months (thanks Jack!). I tried it on for 15 seconds to make sure it was the right size, and I’ve panicked about that since.
What if something terrible happens and I can’t finish the race? Then I’ll have this amazing jacket that I can never wear.
I agonized about putting the Boston unicorn on the tongues of my Adidas racing flats for Monday. And I haven’t run enough miles in them yet, mostly because of that logo.
I avoid touching race medals at expos. The Little Rock Marathon and Mississippi Blues both prominently displayed the medals runners were set to earn a day later. I watched people take pictures with them. No way would I ever do that. Celebrating a race before it’s happened is just asking for something bad to happen right?
Those are just regular races to me. Boston is on a different level. I stopped wearing my Boston Qualifier hoodie, because I haven’t earned the unicorn yet (even thought I was a qualifier, so the message was true). I was also tired of explaining that I hadn’t run Boston yet to anyone who saw the logo and asked.
When I arrive in Boston on Saturday, I will not check out the finish line. I will not pose for pictures. Anything I buy at the expo will go deep into my suitcase for at least a day.
My first time at the finish line will come Monday morning when I become an official Boston finisher. (Because I’m still scared of jinxing myself, I will qualify that last statement with: if all goes according to plan.)
I think back to the first time I saw those three Boston finisher medals. That party happened in Shreveport because the bombing led to a Boston lockdown. Jeff, Wallace, and Shane all drank for free that night. Those medals were sacred. I wanted my own. My marathon PR at the time was an hour slower than it is today, and I was nowhere near my qualifying time. I’m thankful Jeff invited me. And then, along with many others, showed me how to get faster.
I have never touched a Boston finisher medal. I avoid anything that could jinx my chances of crossing that finish line on Monday. My approach has worked so far.
I just have to keep it up for five more days. Five more days until I can wear my medal and jacket as long as I want. And I will take so many pictures at the finish line on Tuesday.
Expect to see a unicorn logo any time I’m around after Monday. I apologize in advance for how annoying I will become.
But first, I must earn it.