Since I watched my first Boston Marathon from my Cambridge apartment on April 16, 2001, Patriot’s Day has been one of my favorite days of the year. As I later volunteered and then ran the race, I grew to not only love the event, but also the spirit of the city on this particular day each year.
This year was the same…but different. It's been a crazy year of lows and highs but I think the marathon was the grand celebration that everyone wished for after the year of hurting, healing and hoping. It was not just the spirit of the city that shined but also its will.
The 2014 Marathon had one of the highest official finishing rates in the race’s history, with 90% of starters finishing before the course officially closed at 6:15, according to competitor.com. However, if you count all those who came in after 6:15, the rate was more like 99%. Finishing was the goal, even if everything else was going wrong; these runners did not run with their legs, but with their hearts.
Boston has found some comfort over the last year when there have been reasons to celebrate as a city. If the Red Sox winning the World Series last year was the icing on the cake, Meb winning this year’s Boston Marathon was the cherry on top. The first American to win the race on over 30 years, Meb Kefelzighi ran a personal best of 2:08:37 to capture the victory.
Meb winning was pretty darn awesome. I saw runners crying as the news spread from the crowds through the course (Afterall, I was still in Newton and the man had the laurel wreath on his head!) But what may be even more impressive was this story of how the US runners, led by Ryan Hall, worked together to help an American win the race. This race was not only important to Boston, or even the running community, but perhaps the entire country.
For the spectators, it seemed it was still, as I heard it described, a “giant block party.” But to me, it also felt like the crowds were more engaged, really rooting on each and every runner, wanting them to finish. I know there was a greater security presence along the course this year, and while I certainly noticed that, I also noticed there were more signs, more “team” t-shirts and more cowbells.
I’m sure it was only by coincidence, but I seemed to catch more of my friends and family along the course than last year, which was a tremendous boost. For the first time, however, my parents and boyfriend were not at the finish line to see me on Boylston Street. Although they tried, a slower than usual train ride on the D line from Newtown-Wellesley Hospital, where they did see me pass, did not get them to Boylston Street in time.
I thought I would be more emotional making those final 2 turns on to Hereford and then Boylston. Perhaps it was the positive energy of the crowds, the comfort of seeing my friend’s family or the cramps starting in my shins that I was not going to let slow me down, but surprisingly, not a tear was shed.
I finished slightly slower than I had hoped, but not disappointed. I walked through the finish area, clear-headed and taking it all in. For the first time, I had run this marathon with my phone in my “fanny pack.” The bruise it left on my lower back was worth the sense of relief it brought, just in case.
Happily, I didn’t need it except to find them after I had gotten my medal and warmth retention blanket (which really was warm!). I hobbled down to the corner of Boylston and Arlington, to reunite just feet from where we met last year. The hugs were just as tight, but anxiety and panic were replaced by joy and pride.
It was a great day for Boston. It was a great day to run.
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