I watched the 118th Boston Marathon from high above the finish line. It was an offer I had last year as well but did not take. We sat in a bar in Brookline instead, camped out around mile 22 with a bunch of day-drinkers listening to loud music and cheering on the second wave of marathoners.
We left in the afternoon. Between leaving the bar and making it home, it was clear something was very wrong. Twitter said there was an explosion, smoke. Cashiers at the grocery said a bomb. Amputations. My parents were calling. My friends were calling. Then our cell phone signal went out for a while.
We were far enough away. We were walking in the right direction. Heading home, not to the finish line.
I am not a sports person. Sports have always been what daddy watches all weekend when I want to watch cartoons, or what gym teachers force upon me, trading mild humiliation for passing grades. Sports in general feel like a weird, corporate-sponsored, steroid-ridden Gladiator match.
Marathons, though. Marathons are different. I watch the Boston marathon and all of my recessed sports-related emotions let loose. A bunch of semi-crazy people are just running beyond human desire, need, or comprehension, but I might as well be watching My Team win the Superbowl (or insert some other more relevant sports metaphor here.)
It’s been four years now, but I am still running. I am an ambivalent runner. A reluctant runner. An inconsistent, slow, occasionally sidelined by aches and pains and illness and general-life-exhaustion runner. It’s so minor-league compared to a marathoner – much less a Boston marathoner – but having engaged in the act regularly for a number of years gives me just enough perspective to be completely floored by the act of marathoning. It is time consuming and damn difficult to train for 26.2, yes, but it’s also something you choose, for whatever twisted reason, it’s a personal thing. Every runner that crosses the finish line, and even those that don’t. They choose to show up and give everything they have inside of them. 36,000 people made this choice, or a million small choices, and yeah, that makes me cry. Every time.
I am glad that the choices of 36,000 outweighed the choices of a few in 2013, and thankful for the many police and security folks who made 2014 safer, and for those who were injured I am so glad you are still here and I hope you are getting better. There are some things about city life that I loathe and some things I like, but coming out with the rest of the city and the world to cheer on the Boston Marathon every year is what brings me to my metaphorical, emotional knees. It’s the ritual, the celebration, the community, the city. My city. It was beautiful up there and I can’t wait until next year.