Monday, April 21, 2014 – Patriot’s Day in New England – Marathon Monday in Boston.
With this being my first time experiencing Marathon Monday, I wanted to take it all in but didn’t know much about the details. Where was the best place to watch the race? How early do you set up camp? What will the crowds be like? I am fortunate enough to live five miles from a portion of the race route and so I decided to take my early morning run down to the town to see for myself. I drove down to a local college and parked in their lot so I would be a little closer. I would have gladly run the 10-miles round trip but, not knowing how long I would be standing on the race route in anticipation, I wanted to be sure my car was close enough that I could make it home in time to catch the train into Boston.
At seven in the morning, the race route had not been cut off to vehicular traffic yet, but volunteers were diligently working to set up water stops and medical tents. Students at Wellesley College helped hang inspirational posters along the metal barricades and a few spectators had already chosen their race day real estate. Police and military presence already made themselves known despite being hours from the starting gun.
As I ran along the tree-lined streets, I felt exhilaration resonating in the atmosphere. Everyone hustled around making sure the route reached perfection. I was far from being the only runner basking in the pre-marathon glow. I may not be a native of Massachusetts, but I sure embraced the pride that swelled in my heart. Would I feel this affected by a day if I weren’t a runner? Maybe. Maybe not. But I am a runner and days like Marathon Monday impact me.
I stood along the metal barricade not wanting to head back to my car, hoping I would be able to clap for a runner or two. Since we were supposed to head into Boston for the festivities, I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to witness much of the race due to the overwhelming number of spectators. Luckily, a few military personnel ran the course and I was able to cheer them on before starting my return run.
As it turned out, my cousin and I decided to head back into Wellesley to watch the marathon. It would be less crowded than Boston yet still eventful. We parked our lawn chairs on the grass in between the 13 and 14 mile markers, but as soon as two people moved their chairs from the front row, we swooped in to score prime viewing spots. It’s so much more enjoyable being in the action of a race like that.
People lined the streets. Chants of “way to go runners” rang out and a steady stream of clapping continued for hours. There were times when cheers grew louder like when amputees from last years bombings approached, when runners needed a little extra motivation, and when the father/son duo, Dick and Rick Hoyt, soared passed. If you’ve ever been on the runner’s end of the cheers, you’ll understand just how emotional that support can be. There have been numerous times in my own race running that I’ve felt tears welling up…and I am NOT an emotional person. But the support of spectators, strangers you’ll never see again, lifts your spirits and motivates you to push through with more strength than you ever imagined.
The number of participants in this year’s marathon reached near 36,000, that’s about 9,000 more than usual. There were numerous methods of entry for the race: qualifying, lottery winner, fundraising team, or essay writing winner. Since most of the participants qualify for Boston, the majority of runners fly by the spectators with ease, many not even slowing to drink the water they just scooped up from a volunteer. This is not a “fun” run. There aren’t many costumed or tutu wearing runners. I noticed only a handful of sparkle skirts and one person dressed up as Paul Revere (it was Patriot’s Day after all). The Boston Marathon is for those runners who want to leave their footprints along a legacy driven course. That’s not to say the race is boring. You almost don’t need to carry an iPod because the spectators provide enough motivation to last hours.
We arrived at the route around 11:00am and stayed until about 3:00pm when the race began to die down. From where we sat, the 2014 Boston Marathon successfully diminished the memories from last year. One couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Spring day for redemption with a clear blue sky and temperatures around 65 degrees. Though many runners hoped it would be a bit cooler, ideally in the 50’s, I say 65 degrees beats the 80’s I’m used to running in Florida. If I wanted to paint an idyllic picture, April 21, 2014 would be the inspiration.
Among the many accomplishments of this race lie a couple noteworthy moments: two Americans won their Elite Divisions and Team Hoyt crossed the finish line for the final time. Meb Keflezighi became the first American male to win the Boston Marathon since 1983, as well as the oldest winner since 1931. His official time was 2:08:37. This win was more than personal for the 38-year-old. On the four corners of his race bib were the names of the four victims lost during last year’s ordeal, a day in which Meb was a spectator instead of a runner. This year, he laced up in memory of them, but more importantly, he won for them. “I’m blessed to be an American and God bless America and God bless Boston for this special day,” Keflezighi said.
American Tatyana McFadden won the women’s wheelchair division on her twenty-fifth birthday. She ran as part of Team MR8 supporting Martin Richard, the little boy who lost his life at the finish line last year.
Team Hoyt, consisting of father/son duo Dick and Rick Hoyt, was set to complete their last Boston Marathon in 2013 before being stopped at mile 23 that fateful day. Deciding that a racing ritual spanning almost four decades couldn’t end on a sour note, Team Hoyt geared up one final time. Dick, 73, pushed his wheelchair-bound son Rick, 52, though one more grueling 26.2 mile race and was met with encouragement throughout the course. Team Hoyt will continue to run in shorter distance races and Rick may return to Boston with another willing runner, but 2014 marked the end of a legacy for these two Boston Marathon staples.
Among the salty tears of success, redemption never tasted so sweet. One thing can never be doubted: the resilience of Boston.