If you would like to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, please donate to The One Fund, set up by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino.
One of the things I planned to talk about in my Boston Marathon recap was the spectators. How they carried me 26.2 miles with their shouts, screams, signs, offers of beer, water, popsicles, oranges, you name it. The signs the Wellesley girls hold up provide a welcome distraction from the pain, their screams ear piercing, although I have to admit I prefer the boys of Boston College, who hang precariously over the barricades while they shout and cheer and offer encouragement. They appear at mile 21, right after Heartbreak Hill, when I find myself in most need of some crowd support.
And then some of these very spectators who stand for hours and shout themselves hoarse are injured or killed in an horrific and senseless attack.
And my memories of these people, of the little boy from whom I took water and the kids holding out their hands for high fives and the man who shouted out my number, are imprinted on my brain.
I am trying to remind myself that there is much more good in the world than evil. And it’s the people of Boston who have helped me remember that. Here are a few examples:
1. I dumped my fuel belt at mile 11. In hindsight, I never should have carried it. I hate wearing the thing. The water got warm fast, my back was baking, and the only reason I wore it was to carry my GUs, which my coach pointed out I could have just safety-pinned to my shorts. Yeah, he was right. Again. I’d pinned a business card to the belt just in case, but when I dumped it much earlier than planned (the plan was mile 21, when I’d pick up the pace), I never expected to get it back. But a couple from Natick found it, contacted me, and mailed it back to me. They are both runners, but they haven’t run Boston. I hope they get to run it next year, and either way, I plan to meet them so I can thank them in person.
2. There were two people behind me wearing Yankees caps. It was entertaining (and a good distraction) to hear the comments from the spectators, which of course poked fun but were never derogatory or unkind. I didn’t even hear “Yankees suck,” just good-humored, respectful fun.
3. When runners finish the race, they’re funneled toward the buses containing the gear they’ve checked. On the way there are two guys sitting up high holding a white board on which is written the top 3 finishers, male and female, as well as the top American finishers. It’s a really nice touch. Oh, and at the bottom of the board is listed the inning and the score of the Red Sox game.
4. I deliberately did not put my name on my shirt or bib, and I was grateful to The Boston Marathon for not printing it on there. Funny though it sounds, I get to a point in a marathon where I just can’t stand to hear my name shouted at me. I know the supporters are simply being encouraging, but what’s great in the first few miles becomes really old by the 20th. But that didn’t stop people from shouting out my number, all 5 digits of it, or “go PR!” – the initials of the store I run for, Potomac River Running, are imprinted on my shirt. And that was enough, and much appreciated.
5. At some races, spectators will come out with their “Go Dad!” sign, stand on the side of the road silently until “Dad” runs by, cheer for him, and then move on. I’m always amazed that they don’t cheer for anyone else. I’m sure it’s not deliberate, it just doesn’t cross their minds to cheer for strangers. I’m not saying spectators should cheer themselves hoarse for every runner, but once in a while, pick out someone and cheer for them. It’s really nice to have strangers cheering for you. At Boston, all the spectators do this. For hours. They line the streets and cheer on every runner. It’s a tradition. They have fun – or at least they look like they’re having fun. And the cheers get louder the closer you get to the finish. So by the time you get to Boylston street, the noise is deafening. And you feel like a rock star.
Many thanks to every single spectator at the 2013 Boston Marathon. You guys deserve a medal.