One of the proudest achievements of my life is running a marathon. A year after my own race I had a pretty killer opportunity to be in Boston over marathon weekend, to go the Runner's World pre-race party, and to stand just around the corner from the finish line and cheer on thousands of my brothers and sisters in the "marathoner" fraternity.
I moved to Boston the next year and spent several more glorious Patriot's Days in downtown Boston, cheering for people we knew, finally being outside on one of the first warm days of the year and basking in a day off that none of our friends anywhere else were getting. I loved watching the elite athletes come in first but what I really went to see were all the thousands of people doing something that at some point, I bet they thought they couldn't. I knew just how much of your life got sucked up into being in that race and I knew that every person out there had a story. In many ways my marathon set a solid foundation for the rest of my adult life and I can't watch one anymore without getting excited for all the other people getting to experience that life change as well.
Boston is a funny place-it's a big city that kind of still sees itself as a small town. You go downtown on Marathon Monday, or the 4th of July, or during playoff season, and you'll run into half your friends. Geographically it's tight and emotionally it's tight too. It'll freeze your guts out for six months and act like it doesn't want you around and then suddenly spring comes and it's like the whole place is just dying for you to come have a picnic on it's lawn.
I felt a lot of things today. Relief as I got in touch with friends I knew would be down near the finish because if I'd been there, we would have been down near the finish. Overwhelming sadness for the people who went to celebrate the best day in the city they love and are now facing the loss of a loved one or a totally changed life due to a horrific injury no one should get celebrating the best day in the city they love. As a person who works in the sports industry, and someone who plans events, I couldn't help but feel a certain melancholy that this will change the way marathons are managed and change it in sad ways. Part of the magic of a marathon is being right there, lining the street, watching the regular folks run in the same steps as the Champions. I don't know what the change looks like but I know it involves more rules, less access. And it has to right? I felt heartsick for all the organizers and the people who work so hard to put on this event. I have certainly spent moments at venues filled with athletes and volunteers imagining what would I do if something unspeakable happened and always feel a tremendous sense of relief when we pack up safe and sound. I watched all those first responders today and felt grateful that there are people in the world who choose professions where they have to run towards the bombs we are all escaping.
Mostly I just felt heavy hearted for a city that used to be my home. There is no way something like this happens and doesn't leave a scar. I think about all the events that didn't worry us a bit, all the times we crowded onto the Esplanade, or jammed into the Hatch Shell for movies and concerts and fireworks, and how those "best days" will now necessarily make people pause. If there is a group of people who will just stubbornly refuse to let this change them, it's Bostonians. I would give just about anything to be at the next Red Sox games because I know Fenway will come up with some perfect way to get the tears out and then everyone will say how much the Yankees still suck and they'll belt out "Sweet Caroline" and it will feel like Boston again. I sometimes felt like that town was trying to kill me and when I left it was time. But today I wanted to be in someone's living room in Somerville, sharing stories and sitting really close to some of the best people on planet earth.
I really do love that dirty water.