The emotions flash across Jill Deering’s face faster than clouds before a Yankee Clipper. She laughs a little, then sniffles. She shrugs and smiles, even as her eyes well. The rabbit co-founder and owner is only minutes past the finish line of a Boston Marathon that did not go as she’d hoped, and she’s trying to process on the fly. She’s wet from sweat and the overpowering humidity, and shivering slightly, still wrapped in her space blanket. She’s exhausted in the way that only a true grind of a race can exhaust a person, but she’s put 26.2 miles behind her, and she’s ready to talk about it.
“Hey,” she says, then smiles again and sighs. She speaks softly, slowly at first. You can tell she wants to get this right. “I didn’t have the day I wanted, but I had the day I had.” If a tone of voice could be a shrug, this was one. She thinks for a second or two, then the words come in a tumble.
“Running is such a fickle sport sometimes. You really train, put so much energy and time into one day, one race, one specific time, and sometimes it all magically comes together. And sometimes…it doesn’t.” She takes a long, slow breath, shrugs for real. “Ninety-two percent humidity, fifteen mile per hour headwind…it never really came together.”
Clearly, this is not Deering’s first time around a racecourse, and even under this post-race onslaught of emotions, (nothing breaks down emotional restraint like exhaustion and a dream deferred) she is able to speak philosophically.
“I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t break my heart, (Her eyes well again but do not spill; she smiles) because it does. But it’s all very temporary. I wanted to run a lot faster than I did, but you know what?” The mesmerizing cavalcade of facial expressions turns to one of childlike wonder. “The people, the fans, the cheering, the support? It was unmatched.” Deering is rolling now. From resignation, to sadness, to philosophical distance and wonder, she arrives at a place of genuine excitement.
“The last quarter-mile down Boylston, it felt like I was flying! It was incredible; it was awesome.” Excitement then gives way to resolve. “So, I’m going to take that, and know it was just one little piece of the whole journey, and that I loved getting here and working to get here, and I know I didn’t get to showcase my fitness, but that’s okay.” She sighs. “That’s okay.”
This storm of exquisitely choreographed emotion, the changes in vocal cadence, as one, then another mood overtakes her, is riveting to behold. Deering’s love of the marathon, of everything that word means – even hard, humid, windy days like this one – is clearly apparent in every word she speaks. “I’ll get over it.” (Another shrug, some more unshed tears, another smile.) “It’s a race, you know? I have a lot of other things to look forward to. I’ll be sad for a minute, then I’ll move on. And I’ll try to run faster another time.”
Then she answers the question I have not yet asked, but am dying to.
“Will I do Boston again” She thinks about it for the briefest of moments, then flashes her biggest smile yet. “Yeah, I probably would. It was awesome.” She takes a deep breath, exhales slowly. “So yeah, that’s about how it went. Not my best race, but you live, you learn, you move on, you race again.” She sighs one last time, shivers just a little. “Okay, that’s about it. I’m going to go warm up.” She gives a last, wan smile, wrinkles her nose. “See ya!” And then she is gone, already turning to the next thing.
I wish everything Deering has just said could be played for every young athlete on the cusp of a lifetime of triumphs and disappointments, large and small. Yes, this Boston Marathon was a very big deal, and no, Deering did not come away with the performance or time she had trained so hard for. But as she had said before the race and again immediately after, this race, important as it is, is just one step in a long, difficult, wonderful journey, and Jill Deering, business owner, attorney, wife, mother, and runner, is going to keep loving every minute of it.
Oh, and the numbers? The 2:45 she had been hoping to run was just not in the cards on this breezy, humid day. Deering ran 2:56:45, a more than serviceable time by almost any standard. And to give the performance a little context, Deering’s time was almost the same percentage slower than her goal time as that of one Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner of all time, and that’s some fine company indeed.