On Saturday, I ran my first 5K of 2014. I did fairly well, considering it was the 3rd time I’ve actually run in 2014, so I was pleased. And I had huevos rancheros after, so I was even more pleased.
The race was the BAA 5K. The BAA, if you didn’t know, is the Boston Athletic Association, the group that organizes the Boston Marathon. And, assuming none of you actually live under a rock, you know what happened last year at the Boston Marathon. This year, the BAA expanded the field for the 5K, in part because they wanted people to feel like they were a part of the Boston Marathon experience, since though they are cracking down on bandits (people who run without numbers) this year.
This meant 10,000 people converging on Boston Common on a beautiful spring day at 8am. I think the race was as organized as it could be for that many people, but OMG, the people. There were still people starting when the finishers started coming in. The getting of the medal, snack and a shirt took longer than the actual race. It was kind of crazy town.
But it really was a great race. The course was awesome, nice and flat. There were people everywhere, cheering. The shirts were great. The course started at the Common, and at mile 2.25 or so, turned right up Hereford Street, then left on to Boylston Street, and crossed the marathon finish line. The finish line was in place, the jumbotron was up and on, the VIP bleachers were ready to go.
I am fortunate enough to have made that right on to Hereford and the left on to Boylston once before, seven years ago. But I know not everyone has had that opportunity. I ran without headphones, and it was cool to hear the comments as we ran by. People were so excited – “This is the only time we’ll get to cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon!” One guy told the girl he was with “I want to hold your hand when we cross the finish line.”
I’m not a Boston kid, I grew up in RI. I was so confused in college when people asked each other where they were from. Almost everyone said Boston. Upon further conversation, most of those people lived up to a half an hour outside of Boston. What were they talking about? I grew up 20 minutes outside of Providence, I would never say I was from Providence. But everyone wants to be from Boston, you could tell it was said with a sense of pride. I’ve only actually watched the marathon a handful of times (watching a marathon is kind of exhausting, for real). I never had the day off, I’ve never went to the Sox game and then to cheer on the runners. I went to school like every other kid in RI, and drank Dels and ate pizza strips and had no idea what people an hour north of me were doing.
But in 2007, I ran that marathon, and I really experienced it for the first time. I have nothing to compare it to, for all I know the Chicago or NYC marathons are just as great. But I rode the bus from Boston to Hopkinton, I ran through the tiny towns, through the girls at Wellesley, up Heartbreak Hill, into the crowds from the Red Sox game, right on to Hereford, left on to Boylston, and over that blue and yellow finish line. I got my medal, wore my silver cape, and I felt so proud. There are so many people who have run the Boston Marathon faster, better, more often, but it doesn’t matter. I get to say “I ran Boston.”
Once I had a taste of the magic of the marathon, I was hooked. I dreamed of taking my children there to watch the race on a gorgeous spring Monday, and maybe one day running it again. I was so close to taking the day off last year and taking Emilia in her stroller to watch the race, to starting a tradition with her. In the end, the pain of the logistics won out, and I’m glad we didn’t make the trip.
There’s not much to say about what happened last year that haven’t already been said. I honestly cried off and on for days, not only over the lives that were lost, but for how I feared the bombs would change Patriots Day and the marathon I loved forever.
But after Saturday, running with 10,000 people who just wanted to be a part of Boston, no matter how small, I think that worry is silly. I ran past people wearing Martin Richard’s name on their shirts. I ran past so many “Boston Strong”, “We Run Together”, “We All Run Boston” signs. I ran past (well, mostly I ran behind) countless blue and yellow ribbons, countless signs of inspiration, and most importantly, countless people who will never forget.
But most importantly, I ran with 10,000 people who will never let two awful men take away their Patriot’s Day weekend traditions, their love of their (wicked awesome) city, their feet hitting that blue and yellow paint on Boylston. And that’s what it means to me, a kid from RI, to be Boston Strong.