Boston Is Mine. And Yours.
How dare anyone do this to my race!
I call the Boston Marathon “mine” not as a reflection of selfishness or being an only child, but because for those of us who grew up in Massachusetts, for those of us who have spectated the race, for those of us who have run it, it’s incredibly personal.
More personal than it being “our” marathon – for each of us, it’s “mine.”
Boston is unlike any other marathon – not because if its history or longevity, but because it’s a small town race. In fact, barely any of the race happens in Boston itself. That’s just where it happens to end. The rest of the course winds through small- and medium-sized towns.
If you’re not from here, you likely haven’t even heard of most of the towns on the route: Hopkington, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, Boston. Heck, when you get right down to it, even Boston is small – barely 600,000 people live in the city.
For anyone who’s idea of a big race is New York, London, or Chicago, experiencing the start in Hopkington would be a shock to the system. There are “only” 27,000 official runners each year, not because of a lack of interest, but because the roads wouldn’t accommodate any more.
As you make your way through the race, what strikes you is that you’re running through neighborhoods and towns, not along a course. Spectators are out in front of their houses, welcoming you through where they live, and they’ve been doing that for many years.
More than any other race, Boston is a part of the fabric of the communities that host it.
Even the day it’s held makes it special. Boston is on a Monday – Patriots Day. But ask most folks when the race happens and the answer you get most often is “Marathon Day.” The third Monday in April is when we shut down the streets for a road race – that Paul Revere and the Minutemen started the American Revolution more than two centuries ago around that time of year is secondary.
No other race takes over a city the way this one does. The race is the focal point of the day, and much of the week leading up to it.
And the runners know that. Go to any running community in the US, and many in other countries, and they will tell you that there are marathons and then there is The Marathon. Qualifying for Boston means that you have achieved a notable goal and that you are part of a fairly exclusive community. Everyone wants to be part of something so special.
The tragedy of April 15 stings that much more, because for us it’s personal. It’s ours – it’s mine. It existed for generations before I was born and it will exist for generations after I’m gone. It’s pure. It’s what sports should be.
And because of two explosions and the resulting fallout, it will be different.
I crossed the finish line yesterday a little before 1:30pm. I smiled. I raised my arms. I teared up more than a little. This is my race. Just like it belongs to the girl finishing in front of me, the guy finishing next to me, and everyone else.
I was away from the finish line well before the bombs went off. I was watching TV at 3pm when “Breaking News” scrolled across the screen. And just like that, my race became something different.
I don’t know what next year’s race will look like – what changes will take place. I am so happy that I ran this year. I will wear my 2013 jacket with pride and share a silent, knowing nod with anyone I see wearing theirs. A brotherhood within an already tight community.
How dare this person (and I use that word very loosely) do what he did? How could he do this to me – to my race?
To say that my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims doesn’t seem enough. My life was never in danger. All of my friends are fine. Some of them had some close calls, but I am so happy to say they are all physically unscathed.
The wounds from yesterday are deep and long-lasting. We will likely not know the extent of the repercussions for a long time – maybe not until next year’s race.
But no matter what else happens, this is one thing I know for sure: try as they might, no one can ever take my race away from me. And I’m not the only one for who that is true.
I believe in Boston.