I’ve been waiting a year to write this post.
Last year, after the bombs went off and it seemed like life would never be the same, my friend Danielle and I made our way to Boylston Street. It was less than a week after that marathon. The area was still closed with metal barriers that had become makeshift memorials filled with flowers, finishers medals, banners, and sneakers. Looking down Boylston, seeing the finish line still set up and the street eerily empty, I felt hollow. I was so lucky not to know anyone hurt or killed, and yet I knew that but for the grace of God, it could have been me on that sidewalk. Or my family. Or my friends. I think a lot of us felt that way, that’s why what happened made us so angry, and made our resolve to overcome so strong. It could have been me.
Danielle and I stood there reading the notes of sympathy, courage, and resolve. “Next year is going to be big,” I told her. “Everyone is going to run.” She nodded in agreement. “I’m not going to run,” I declared. “I’m going to be out there at mile 18 again. I need to be there. Someone needs to support them.”
And that’s just what I did. When volunteer registration opened up in November, I put out the word that November Project would be manning the Hydration Station at mile 18 once again. In just a few days nearly 100 people signed up to volunteer with me, including Danielle.
Last week was hard. There were sad moments. There were flashes of anger. And there was an enormous amount of gratitude. Gratitude to live in this wonderful city. Gratitude to have such a wonderful group of friends and family. Gratitude for the simple gift of being able to run.
The fact that last weekend was gorgeous, one of the most beautiful we’ve had this spring, helped enormously. I did a long run on Saturday, going from my house to the Esplanade, up to River Street, down the Cambridge side, over the Harvard Bridge, past the hatch shell and then over to the Common. It seemed like half the city was out there, basking in the sunshine and wearing “Boston Strong” t-shirts.
BAA 5k the Saturday before the Marathon
When Monday rolled around, there was no pushing the snooze button. I jumped out of bed, and headed to Brookline to run laps around a baseball field and hand out high-5s. We applauded our local law enforcement, stopped at Starbucks to fuel up, and then some friends and I rode to mile 18.
The day passed in a blur. The first athletes came through just after 10 a.m. At 4:30 p.m. they were still trickling by.
The elites passed through shortly after 10
In between were 32,000 runners from 50 states and 95 countries. I shouted “Gatorde!” over and over and over and over. I handed out hugs and high-5s, and was once again overcome with gratitude. I was grateful for a lot of things: the sunny day, the cool volunteer jacket, the fact that someone brought a box of coffee to fuel me through the day. But mostly, I was simply glad to be there, surrounded by 50 friends and athletes who I knew were as happy to be there as I was.
The marathon is a funny thing. Yes, there are some amazing athletes out there running sub-5 minute miles and breaking records. But the vast majority are just normal people, jogging and walking their way through 26.2 miles, not because they think they’ll win, but simply because they think they’ll finish. I stood there, offering Gatorade and thought, That could be me. I don’t know if I’ll ever do a marathon, but if I do, it’s because the Boston Marathon showed me that anyone who puts their mind to it can make it 26.2. We might not finish as fast as Meb, but we’ll finish.
I left mile 18 yesterday on my bike, surrounded by friends. We waved to cops and cheered on the last runners straggling through the course. There were a few beers, more hugs, and congratulating friends who’d run. It was an ordinary sort of fun that made the day extraordinary.
I can’t wait to do it again next year.