When I decided to move to Boston, one of the things that most excited me was the prospect of being present for the 118th Boston Marathon. As a runner, I knew I had to experience every aspect of this race seeing as emotions topped the chart and resilience lingered in the air. Bostonians demand the utmost respect for their city and its heritage. Nothing, not even fear, could prevent this race from being anything less than extraordinary.
But let’s start at the beginning…
When Marathon weekend commenced, I sported my Dopey Challenge jacket and headed to Copley Place for the running expo. I hopped on the 11:06 train into the city on Friday morning. My station is only the third from the start of the line, and usually the ticket attendant is able to easily reach every person in the train car to collect their fees during the 30-minute ride. This day, though, the cars filled up so quickly that she didn’t even have time to collect money from more than quarter of the car. Many of the people on my train, whether runners or not, were headed to the expo.
Immediately upon stepping onto the Boston streets I felt an unfamiliar electric energy. The city felt alive and full of purpose, and the people in it, determined. At this moment, Boston was more than just an historic, American city. Blue and yellow flowers bloomed in every corner of Boylston Street. Motivational signs adorned shop windows and lampposts. And the finishing touches were being placed on the area surrounding the finish line.
Boylston was breathtaking.
I arrived at the Hynes Convention Center about fifteen minutes prior to the doors opening and stood patiently in line with other eager running enthusiasts. What waited behind those closed doors? The only expos I’ve attended have been those of runDisney races. Disney runs are better known for their jovial nature rather than intensity. Yes, the distances are equally difficult, but Disney lines the course with characters and entertainment. It appeals to runners in ostentatious costumes more concerned with taking photos with characters than finishing as quick as possible; Boston’s pride is the spectator lined course and historic finish. There’s no reason for any other form of entertainment. Boston is for the serious runner; most of whom rarely stop for walk breaks.
The expos differ in just that way as well. The stalls on Friday consisted of products for the true distance runner. I saw many known apparel brands including North Face, New Balance, and Brooks, all whom had gear relating to the strength of Boston. Most other vendors sold articles to be used on the course: tracking equipment (Garmin), compression socks (CEP), and energy chews (Clif). I noticed only two sparkly headband booths (Sweaty Bands included) and one fun skirt booth. This led me to believe the crowd of runners for Boston was far different than Disney; however, I did recognize multiple vendors at both expos. I was surprised that this no nonsense expo psyched me up as much Disney had in the past. I must truly be a runner if I find as much joy in practical running gear as I do sparkly skirts.
I wandered the expo for three and a half hours stopping three times in the official merchandise area wondering if I needed to purchase any memorabilia.
I accepted all free samples that vendors handed me (get ready for some product knowledge!). And I spoke with numerous vendors in hopes of obtaining insider tips on joining their teams. I walked away learning of a few open jobs for The Competitor Group, as well as the best place to search for New Balance jobs. Unfortunately, runDisney didn’t bite my tangled bait, and I knew well enough not to harass the Boston Athletic Association this weekend.
By the time I left to catch the train home, the aisles overflowed with participants and enthusiasts adorned in newly purchased Boston Marathon attire. Everyone’s spirits soared. No one complained about standing in the weaving official merchandise queue line which topped 30 minutes, if not more.
People were simply enthused and excited to wipe the slate clean of last year’s unfathomable tragedy.
I began my short walk back to the train station, but before I headed back to the suburbs, I had one more stop to make. I had decided as soon as I stepped off the inbound train that I was going to donate my $6 to a worthy cause. With it being Good Friday, I figured a church would be the opportune benefactor of my train fee. Across the street from the Public Library, near the finish line of the race, is the Old South Church. After leaving the expo, I headed to the church to drop off my donation. I noticed a crowd gathered out front of the church and thought maybe it had something to do with the Holy day, but members of the church were actually handing out blue and yellow knitted scarves to runners. Women in the church community set out to knit these scarves after last year’s bombings. They, along with churches from across the nation, donated over 7,000 scarves which were being handed out on this day.
The spirit of Boston resonated loud and clear on the start of Marathon weekend. We are strong. We are proud. We are Boston. And we are better than ever.