My Lord… where to begin? You know when you look forward to something for so long, you have no idea what to do once it’s over? Welcome to aftermath, population me! My legs are still cramped, my toes are too sensitive to even put bedsheets over at night, and just walking from class to class has become a HERCULEAN effort on Holy Cross’ stair-filled campus. But the 2014 Boston Marathon, the reason for all this discomfort, is in the rearview mirror now, and it was one of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve had during my 20 years. Here’s how it happened.
As I shambled to my car last year, my legs in even more pain than they are now and with the ringing of two explosions still buzzing around my skull, I think I was already formulating my return to Boston. I could barely stand for a week, yet I knew that I didn’t really have a choice – I’d be running the Boston Marathon this year. As President Obama himself said, “BET ON IT.” 365 days of “Boston Strong” reminders later, I found myself back in Hopkinton yesterday morning – and 36,000 of my closest friends showed up with me.
Due to the increased amount of runners this year, the B.A.A. added ANOTHER starting wave onto the preexisting three. This meant that, by the time we even crossed the starting line at 11:25am, the elite leaders were already thundering past Boston College (at a guess). I’m not saying that’s why they beat some of us E-Streeters, I’m just saying I think it’s an unfair advantage on their part…
I can’t describe the rush you get crossing that starting mat – any injuries you’re nursing (and we all had them) simply fall away, and the surge of pure adrenaline you get feels like it just might carry you straight through to Boylston Street. A half-mile in, my hands were already sore from high fives!
Runners are all about stats and numbers; what was that last mile split, what’s the weather gonna be like, how many people are in that line for the porta-potty, so on. Not a single guess could be reasonably made as to the number of spectators out along that 26.2 mile distance yesterday. Up into the millions, no question, without breaking a sweat. Not an ounce of ill-will to be found, just an entire state turning out in unadulterated support for this year’s marathoners. You’ll notice in most of these pictures I don’t have headphones in – I genuinely didn’t need them, the soundtrack of cheering from the crowds was so uplifting. You keep your running playlist on Pandora, give me a Patriots’ Day crowd in Framingham or Natick.
As I was prepping myself for the Wellesley College scream tunnel, coincidence and luck found me right smack dab next to another Holy Cross Crusader, Class of ’06 alum Bryan DiMare. It was great seeing another member of ‘Sader Nation out there, Bryan (and wishing the rest of your race was successful)!!!
Next came what was UNDOUBTEDLY the highlight of my day. There’s a blog’s-worth of material on my Dad’s phone from my exploits over the next mile planting kisses on screaming Wellesley girls, but in the interests of time and a PG-rating for this post, we’ll just skim. The enthusiasm from the girls is always an enormous boost, but this year especially it was particularly *ahem* unforgettable. Special shout-out to my best friend growing up, Nicole Hatem, a Wellesley senior who closed out her scream tunnel days with an exclamation point!
A glute injury blossomed into something pretty terrible from this point on, so the rest of the race went by in a bit of a haze. The crowds and their enthusiasm never let up, but I just put my head down and soldiered on as best I could. Apologies if I ran right past anybody reading this – I swear, I didn’t mean to offend you, I was just confronting all my inner demons at the moment and the outside world became kind of secondary.
I thankfully start remembering things (regained consciousness?) around Kenmore Square in Boston, and found that I was blessedly only about a mile from the finish. My Dad and I could actually HEAR Boylston Street before we ever even got to it. It was tough to judge while we were running past (the fact that we were 26 miles into our run may have had something to do with it, too), but I really don’t know how deep the crowds lining the home stretch were. A dozen deep maybe? Twenty? However many there were, they made one heck of a lot of noise! Running down to the finish line with telescope vision, it was hard not to imagine the plumes of smoke that had arisen there last year, and that added even more solemnity to an occasion that can already bring people to tears. But as we ran past block by block of happy, cheering faces, I had a realization. Last year, two cowardly scum had attempted to mar this sporting event with their evil, had tried to crush the spirit of a city and make a damning statement about human nature. Blessed as I was with a view from the trenches, I’m here to announce to the world, once and for all, definitively… BOSTON WON. Boston won, its people won, the people who come from around the world to run its streets won. Boston has expanded beyond a geographical location or a collection of stone buildings into an idea known around the world. Boston now means strength, means toughness, means tenacity, and my GOD it was on display yesterday. You can try to scar us, but you’ll never scare us. Not by a long shot. We’ll just keep on running.
People wonder why we do marathons. They ask (reasonably), “why do you submit yourself to that strain, voluntarily?” My answer: for the feeling I get crossing the finish line. It’s achievement, it’s success, it’s completion in its most un-distilled form. I threw my hands up and SCREAMED a victory shout, and I could feel all the muscles that hadn’t been burned away bulge. It was a pretty cool feeling, man. I turned, then, and just hugged my Dad.
Anyone who knows him will understand this perfectly, but he’s just the most rock-solid, inspiring, AMAZING guy I’ve ever known. He POWERED through the Marathon course Monday, there’s no other way to describe it. The man ran another marathon just three months ago, down in Disney, and he’s had a really bad calf injury ever since, but I swear to God he ran like a man possessed. I’m not even sure he felt the injury at all, he just took his resolve and determination to such a higher level. It’s no different than any other day of my 20 years, Dad, but when we crossed that finish line side-by-side I was just reminded how privileged I am to be your son. You made the whole thing possible in the first place, and I mean it when I say you carried me through to that feeling of victory.
We trudged from the finish area to pick our capes and medals and over to the family car parked a few blocks away. We both sunk right into our seats, and I gotta say, I never knew Ford chairs were that comfortable before.
So… that about covers it. Hopefully you’ve gotten a sense of my Marathon experience this year; truthfully, I’m not even sure if I have it nailed down myself yet. It’ll take me some time to work it all out, and sitting here now I’ve actually just realized that this is the first time in over two years when I don’t have a training goal marked on my calendar. It’s a brave new world for me! But I want to thank, DEEPLY, the E-Streeters who ran with me to get here – Mary-Jo Griffin, Donna Corbin, Sean Kenny, Nick Laganas, & the Scanlon Brothers – and my amazing family – Mom and Heather – for all your support. MVP, though, obviously is saved for Big Man. It was an unforgettable time we had together, and it’s something I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
Boston Strong? You’re looking at it.