The Boston Marathon has always been the THE marathon...everyone knows THE Yankees, everyone knows THE Notre Dame football team, everyone knows THE Kentucky Derby, and everyone knows THE Boston Marathon...just known as "Boston". Six times I was fortunate enough to qualify to run the race, and five times I was able to fulfill that dream and travel the runner's sacred 26.2 mile path from Hopkinton to the middle of Boston. I ran it enough to now be able to visualize the whole course in my head and feel the sneaky downhills of the first half of the race, hear the Scream Tunnel of the girls of Wellsley, battle the three (or is it four) bumps of Heartbreak Hill, and cherish the "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" to the finish line. I haven't run it since 2007. No excuses. I'm just not anywhere speedy enough to qualify anymore. But it's still ingrained in my very fiber and means more than just "my favorite race". Running Boston provides you entrance into an elite club...at least those of us that have done it feel it's an elite club. It's still a rush to answer "yes" when somebody asks "Have you ever done Boston?". With all it's quirks and traditions that have flourished in a race well over a century old, with all it's history of great battles for the victory with sprints down the last few hundred yards of Boylston, and even with it's growing commercialism and busting-at-the-seams participants, there is a Disneyland presence of being THERE.
Or maybe there WAS a Disneyland presence. We all know of the terror of last year's race, and the terrible aftermath. I certainly won't recount it here. We all know somebody who was there and we remember feeling helpless. The terrorists didn't hate runners, they just chose a venue of runners to do their evilness. We hated them for what they did to innocent families. We hated them for further deteriorating the security that living in the USA gives us. And selfishly, we hated them for staining the sport we loved.
Whenever there's a storm, the sun eventually shines, and the sun here was how the running and non-running community solidified around this tragedy. A nation gave Boston support, and the City of Boston rallied behind a collective force that became BOSTON STRONG. Immediately after the bombings, makeshift memorials sprung up around the scene. Running shoes, shirts, notes of love, letters of grief, trinkets of all kinds were placed along the Crime Scene barriers. When the investigation was over, the memorials were moved to a park, and not until June were they carefully packed up, but with the Mayor's promise that there would be a fitting display in the near future.
This weekend, one week before this year's 118th running of the Marathon, my wife and I are visiting our family in Boston as we try to do about every other month. From the moment you get off the plane, there are signs everywhere signifying BOSTON STRONG...banners, signs in storefronts, on buses, on taxis, on lightposts, literally everywhere. And so, I had the opportunity to visit the very recently opened "Dear Boston" exhibit at the Boston Library.
It is free and will run until the middle of May. It was a beautiful remembrance of those days one year ago...no music playing, no somber lighting, no photos of the day of the race. This was a tribute to a community by that same community, but never with the arrogance of "Don't mess with us", or "You picked the wrong city". It was a display of this happened and we care. Walking through, you felt proud for what we can be as a society. We can rally for the good of all. We can pick up the pieces. Heck, runners do it all the time, but this was for all to see, for all to feel, for all to be a part of.
I, as all of us do, pray that we never see anything like this again. But sadly, we know we will. It may be man-made, it may be nature, it may be something else. But, when the smoke begins to clear, all we can hope for, and pray for, is to be strong...like Boston...Boston Strong.
Until next time, I'll see you on the roads - AL
"One child lost is too many...One child saved can change the world"