Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston, You're My Home.

Boston is an easy city to hate. You can't go to school there unless you're a certified genius, you can't drive the streets unless you have lived there all your life or are one of the certified geniuses attending school there, you can't find parking, you can't afford your $1500 a month rent for your 600 square foot studio, you can't escape the eight month winter, you can't understand the accents, and the marathon has a qualifying time that most can't imagine hitting.

Despite this, I love Boston and every Marathon Monday since moving away I've wished I was there. For those who have never lived there, it's hard to understand the celebratory spirit of the marathon that engulfs the city on the third Monday of every April.

For the runners, this is IT. Not only is the course one of the most challenging in the world, but you can't just pay an entry fee and show up. Unless you're running for a charity, you have to qualify and getting to the starting line, 26.2 miles outside the city in Hopkinton, is a feat unto itself that runners spend careers hoping to achieve.

The crowds are amazing, lining every mile at least five people deep. They come out in droves because they've spent the winter listening to their runner friends lament their long, cold training runs and prattle on about the ferocious hills laying in wait at the end of the course. The size of the crowd is helped by the fact that everyone gets the day off. It's a holiday in Massachusetts. Sure, technically it's to commemorate Revolutionary War shots, but modern times have turned into a party for the marathon.

If the New England weather is in the spirit, it's finally nice enough to venture outside without a North Face and the spectators are thrilled to shed their hibernation layers.

The course is spectacular and steeped in the same tradition and ritual upon which the city itself is built. It meanders through bucolic New England suburbia for 10 miles and meets its first tradition at Mile 12 where the girls of Wellesely College form a scream tunnel that is heard about half a mile before the runners arrive. They dole out high-fives, oranges, water, and kisses; whatever you need. The mental snapshots I have of running by Wellesley will surely make it into my "This Is Your Life" reel when mine flashes before me.

At Mile 17, runners turn onto Heartbreak Hill, where things get a bit more serious. This three mile stretch of hills through Newton hit about the time each participant is wondering why she thought marathon running would be fun.

At Mile 21 the Boston College co-eds line the top of hill drunkenly yelling, "You're almost there!" While the runners know the last five miles of a marathon are far from grasping distance, they are thrilled to see the BC students, a symbol that the hills are over.

A few miles up at Kenmore Square, just outside Fenway, the crowds from the only Red Sox game played in the morning, stream out onto the street encouraging the runners for those last few miles.

When runners make the much talked about turn onto Boylston with just a few tenths of a mile left it is deafening and despite a tired body, one can't help but smile at the sight and sounds of the celebration leading to the Finish. The crowds are just as ecstatic as the runners, and much more able to physically show it, that the journey through their hometown was made triumphantly.

Today I am PISSED that someone tried to dampen the spirit of The Boston Marathon. Whoever did it knew the joy felt by every current or former Bostonian on Patriot's Day. They knew every runner in the world wakes up on Marathon Monday and smiles thinking about the excitement in Hopkinton. They knew the co-eds anticipate the debauchery and the office workers look forward to a long weekend. They knew the runners are terrified and excited to take on the Newton hills. They knew how long the Boston winter is and they certainly knew the unparalleled feeling of happiness when the sun shines on your face while you drink a beer at a Back Bay eatery on a spring day.

What they didn't consider, perhaps, is that a spirit this strong isn't easy to squelch. You can put a damper on it and you can cause fear but as long as the marathon route exists, as long as runners spend February and March charging up Heartbreak Hill, and as long as winter turns to spring in that wonderful city by the sea it will not evaporate in the smoke.

Today, I feel good about rocking my baggy old race t.


11 comments:

  1. I went to Wellesley College (and I grew up nearby). I never realized all marathons weren't like this - a holiday for all in the area. I hope they find who did this, and next year's marathon can be a triumphant occasion.

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    1. I didn't realize it either until I ran others and it just wasn't the same. I ran in 2004, might we have crossed paths at Wellesley?

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  2. Thank you for this amazing post and in depth recount of what it is to go mile by mile running that marathon. I think it shows us all just how much of a celebration the marathon is here in Boston and how supportive all involved are. I really love this post and intend to share it immediately. xo

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    1. I was trying very hard to convey what an amazing day the marathon is in Boston. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I was born in Worcester. My mom grew up in Shrewsbury. My family lives in Worcester, Auburn, and New Bedford. I have TAUGHT people how to say Worcestershire Sauce for years. I've friends, bloggy friends, who live in the area and I was so scared for them until I saw them check in or comment in various places.

    I do know this: Boston cannot be squelched. They can't. I'd be willing to bet that next year, the turn out will be even higher because they CAN NOT be stopped.

    Thank you for describing to us what the run is like, mile by mile. Some year I think I would like to see it, but I'm not sure I have the stamina to be there that long!

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    1. Ahhh, Worcester. I went to college there.

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  4. A great post and happy that Boston can rest easier tonight and come back stronger than ever!

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  5. Thank you for sharing this. I'm in Austin, Texas, so a long way from Boston - but so very happy that we might now be on the road to getting some closure on what happened.

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  6. what an amazing post. I live in NY and one of the girls I work with husband ran the race. She tried to explain what it is like, but this most really made me understand.

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