My friend mentioned this paraphrasing Winston Churchill: “Keep Buggering On Boston.” Like everyone in the running community and around the world, I was struck by the tragic news on Monday. There have been tears with every sad news story and all the coverage of the finish line.
For many years Boston was a pilgrimage. I’d meet up with training
partners, stay with some family friends, spend time with family, drink
celebratory Harpoon, stop at Mike’s Pastry, and there was ALWAYS post-race JPLick’s. The Boston Marathon is built on tradition and I certainly enjoyed several
of my own. For so many people who struggle for years to qualify, getting to the
start line in Hopkinton is biggest running goal. The run into Boston is a
celebration; it’s a 26.2 mile long tail-gate. I’ve had good races and bad races
in Boston. But even when the running stops being fun (like the Newton Hills),
the event, the volunteers, the crowds are still world-class.
The first year I ran Boston was in 2004. I was 22 and a senior
in college. I flew out by myself and stayed with some friends (Mark and Bobbi)
of my uncle, who had recently switched hospitals from Brigham and Women’s in
Boston to Bellevue in NYC. Mark and Bobbi were extremely helpful and accommodating,
but I went through most of the marathon motions on my own. This was totally fine
with me. I knew I’d never feel alone among the thousands of runners in the
city. All the fans and participants were so welcoming.
I wasn’t having a particularly good run. As a relatively new
runner, I didn’t realize the importance of listening to my body 3 weeks prior
when I began feeling pain in my left foot. That pain, which I tried to mask
with Tylenol on race morning, became increasingly strong shortly after
heartbreak hill. I’m guessing somewhere around Boston College is when the 3rd
metatarsal in my foot really broke (days later after flying back to Spokane I
could see the break on an x-ray from way across the room). From about mile 22
on I hobbled past the CITGO sign and Fenway, tears and frustration on my face. But
when I took a right turn onto Hereford and that famous left turn onto Boylston, I ran. I crossed
that sweet stretch of road that is the finish line of the Boston marathon and
hugged a volunteer.
I was wheeled into the medical tent and taped up with
athletic tape, but the race medics could only take care of me so far, unless I
wanted to go to the hospital. They helped me find my dry clothes bag and I
figured I could call Mark and Bobbi to pick me up, even though my original plan
was to take the train. This was before I had a cell phone, so I called my dad
from a pay phone but he didn’t have the phone number to where I was staying (I’m
never this ill-prepared).
What happened next is quintessential Boston Marathon camaraderie:
I hung up the phone and started crying. I had just run a marathon, my foot was
broken, and I had no way of getting home unless it was crawling to find a cab. A
spectator came up to me and asked me what was wrong. Between sobs, I explained
and he calmly figured out a plan. He’d carry me on his back to the T, we’d get
off at the Back Bay, and his friend’s husband would drive me to Jamaica Plain
where I was staying. Sweaty, snotty, salty, and gross, I climbed up onto this
stranger’s back and he carried me down the stairs of the T, onto the crowded
train, and to his friend’s car. As he left I asked if there was any way I could
repay him and his response was: “no, just be sure to thank a soldier.” He’s an
angel is what I’ve come to believe. His friends dropped me off and I made it
home safely. I went on to run Boston 6 more times and every finish line was special.
This act of kindness was simply for a stupid girl who didn’t
have the phone number to where she was staying and didn’t listen to her body
when she probably shouldn’t have been running. I can only imagine the
outpouring of kindness and love by the spectators, volunteers and runners who
were there yesterday. I’m inspired and hopeful for this world because of the
people who ran to help, the spectators who opened the arms and their homes as
we mourn, and the running community who will rise above this.
Yesterday I had 2 cousins running (they finished in 2:52 and 3:05) as
well as their dad (my uncle). My cousins were waiting in the family reunion
area and my uncle was at mile 25 when the explosions happened. My other
cousins, who live in Boston and my aunt, were on the train en route to the
finish line. It was a bit chaotic, but they met up relatively quickly (within
an hour) and soon got out of the city safely. I felt so badly for my uncle
whose dream it was to finish the Boston marathon with his sons, but then I was
happy to know he was safe with family.
The Boston Marathon is and always will be a very special race for me
and for every runner who toes the line. It’s hard to know the crippling impact
of yesterday’s tragic events and what it means for future races, but I do know
this: There are very few things I would trade for the ability to run down
Boylston on Patriot’s Day.
I’m sure I’ll run Boston again, maybe next year, maybe years from now.
It’s too soon to tell, but until then Keep Buggering On Boston.