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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Reclaiming Boston

I've been trying to find the words to adequately describe the experience that was the 2014 Boston Marathon...that has been my delay in writing this post.  Alas, I don't think that there are adequate words.  I don't think that you can truly capture what each and every one of us was feeling as we ran down the streets from Hopkinton to Boston.

With signs everywhere proclaiming "We all run Boston" and "We run as One" the attitude throughout the race expo was one of thankfulness- thankfulness for the ability to be there, to be a part of something so significant, to continue the tradition, to be there to represent the city, to run for the city, and for all those who were affected by the tragedy last year.

One of the many signs hanging in Copley Place

The elevator door at my hotel

Security was heightened and no one seemed to mind.  We all knew that it was in everyone's best interest and that all were there to ensure that the event went off without incident.

Staying at the hotel that served as race headquarters meant extra hoops to jump through for security- especially on race day.  No one was allowed in without proper race credentials, room keys, and having your name cross referenced with the hotel registry.

On race morning the ride to the start line in Hopkinton gave us time to reflect on many things- last year's race, how we planned to run this year, and how we were so thankful to have the opportunity to be here again.  Something that we all had decided was a MUST after last year.

Arriving at the athlete's village it was hard not to notice the increased police presence.  Uniformed officers canvassed the area while others manned the rooftops.

Regardless, everyone seemed at ease, just happy to be there.

We waited in the village for our waves to be called.  When they were we walked in our groups to the start area about .7 mile away.  Along the way we passed more police and military as well as volunteers collecting our "throw away clothes".  Due to a change in pre-race happenings, there were no athlete drop bags at the village.  This meant that anything that you did not want to physically carry with you- or wear- to the finish of the race must be discarded at the village.

Not to worry, those throw away clothes are donated to the homeless shelters in the area.  Just one more way that the marathon supports the communities it touches.

Boston Strong Daffodils were seen everywhere.
Especially along the marathon route where they had been planted.

The cool morning gave way to a sunny sky as we lined up for the race start, just as it had last year.  The Boston Marathon doesn't have a typical start time of 7am.  In years past it would start at 12 noon.  More recently that time has moved up with elite females starting around 9:30 am and the first wave of the rest of the field starting at 10am.

With roughly 11, 000 additional participants, this year's race was the 2nd largest in history.

Lining up in our corrals you could feel the excitement in the air-- from both the athletes and the spectators.

The gun went off and we were on our way down the hills away from Hopkinton.

Boston Marathon spectators are a special group.  They line the streets and spend countless hours cheering for people whom they have never met and will likely never see again.  Children smile and wave and high five everyone that they can reach.

But this year it was different.

Yes, people still stood for hours lining the streets handing out water, oranges, bananas, tissues, ice-pops, Twizzlers, and high fives.  They showered us with sprinklers and hoses and wet sponges. And they cheered.

They cheered for each and every one of us and we could feel it.  It was as if we were there running for THEM.  You know the kind of cheering you see and hear when someone is cheering for a friend or family member, or someone they really care about? You know THAT kind of cheering??? THAT was how they were cheering.

As if each and every step that each one of the 36, 000 of us took was bringing all of us closer to the finish line.  Together.  As one.

There were so many times that my emotions were in my throat. (And incase you were wondering it is next to impossible to run while crying)

I had to refocus on the road ahead and the goal of making it to the finish line.  Not for me, but for all of us.  It was a symbolic taking back of the streets, the marathon, the city, and the finish line.  As each person passed through the cities along the route- Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston- we were slowly, one by one reclaiming the day.

I've run a few marathons and I've even had a few that made me want to quit.  I tell you what, there was no quitting THIS marathon.  It was like everyone was counting on you to do it.  To cross that finish line.

I have never experienced anything like this before, and likely won't again.  We truly ran as one.  We did it, we finished strong.

After the race and safely back in my hotel I placed an order for room service.  My food arrived via the hands of the very same gentleman who delivered it after the race last year. This year was a little different as we both exchanged smiles and not tears.

The next morning exiting the hotel I was elated to see the city just as it was the day before.  Alive and well, full of happy marathoners and void of any of the military vehicles I had seen last year.

Making my way through the airport I could over hear a conversation going on behind me.  A few of the gentleman who had come in from other areas to help with the security detail along the marathon route were discussing their experiences.

I turned and asked if they had worked the event.  They replied "yes".  I thanked them for being there and told them that we couldn't have done it without them. ( I may have failed to mention it, but there were police and/or military personnel stationed every 30 feet along the entire marathon route- along both sides of the street.)

They looked back at me and thanked me for running. They too felt the energy, the unity, the resolve, and the strength that flowed through the streets.  We were one.  We were Boston.

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