Saturday, I ran the first 6 miles of my long run with my Alzheimer's teammate Ken. Like many runners this weekend, the Run to End Alzheimer's team bussed our runners out to Hopkinton and took part in what has now become an unofficial marathon training tradition, a final 20+ mile long run before the marathon from the starting line to somewhere along Comm Ave.
Ken has been running marathons since before I was born. And still kicks my butt. He has run 10 Bostons, and has qualified for them all. "There are more runners out here today than there were the first time I ran Boston," he told me as we ran through Ashland.
Ken's first Boston Marathon was in 1970 where according to coolrunning.com there were 877 runners who started that year?s race. I'd estimate there were several thousand running this weekend.
This unofficial event has grown since I trained for my first Boston Marathon in 2004 in the number of runners as well as the involvement of the communities along the route. There were police out directing traffic at the major intersections to make the experience safe for runners and hopefully less burdensome on the towns we run through. The police were fantastic, and with the exception a few runners I saw who thought they owned the road, most runners were very appreciative and respectful of their instructions.
The run has become somewhat of a mini-marathon, with spectators coming out to watch and cheer as runners make their way through neighborhoods. While I ran up the hills in Newton, A woman, who looked like she might be out for a walk herself, jokingly shouted, "Look at all these smiles! What is wrong with you people!?"
Many of the charities had water stops set up along the course to support their runners, and any other runner that might need a splash of Gatorade, a pretzel or a few Swedish fish. While the team name may have been on the banner taped to the table or t-shirts on the volunteers, there was a sense of community helping each runner out there on Saturday to succeed, in what for some may have been their longest run yet.
And it was not just the charities supporting the runners. Companies like Runner's World and Saucony gave out water along the route, while Newton's local running company, the Heartbreak Hill Running Company's Heartbreak Bill continued as he has all winter to offer runners a moment to rest with a memorable photo-op.
Adding one more layer to the community effort of this run was the collective action by runners to give back to a group that has been supporting us for year, the Newton Fire Department. On the corner of Comm Ave and Washington Streets, runners, very much including myself, have often stopped at this firehouse to use the restroom or water fountain inside. Saturday, many runners gave back to the Newton Fire Department by making donations to the Newton Firefighters Children's Fund (http://nfdchildrensfund.com/index.html) as they ran by. The firefighters have been out supporting runners with water throughout the winter, and this week, the runners gave a little back.
I really do love running on this day. Last year, I blogged about this same run and said it was Boston was running at its best. Well, it seems that post is now outdated. One year later, what I thought was the best just got even better.
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