This will be the 6th year in a row that I watch the Marathon unfold at Heartbreak Hill. On a couple of occasions, I have arrived there early enough to watch the elite runners zip by. It is impressive. Their pace is other-worldly. They appear to be sprinting. Uphill. At mile 20.
More impressive, though, is a couple of hours later, when the rest of the field crests the Hill. These are the runners you know. They are your neighbors, co-workers and friends. They are college kids, moms, senior citizens. Maybe they are longtime running nuts whose other marathon times qualified them for a coveted Boston bib number. Likely, they are weekend warriors who are running to support charities close to their hearts.
I have even seen Bill Rogers and Joan Benoit Samuelson, both Marathon winners and local favorites, in this throng. Neither competes for the wreath anymore, but they come. Team Hoyt is always there. Soldiers, Army reservists stationed nearby, march along the route, in full gear.
They come up the Hill in all kinds of ways. Running, limping, walking, waving, smiling, grimacing. In unseasonable heat, or early spring chill, in the rain. In wheelchairs. Barefoot. In Chewbacca costumes. Dressed in hamburger suits, or as bananas, or Uncle Sam, or...
And the crowd pushes them all up the Hill. The cheering doesn't stop. There are signs held aloft. Cowbells ring. Spectators clap, and reassure the runners that "It's all down hill from here!" Friends who have waited and watched for their runner will jump in and run with them, to the top. Or maybe all the way to the finish line.
Much has already been said and written about the Boston Marathon this year. Sometimes, I think, too much.
We are grateful for the courage of the first responders of a year ago. We mourn with the victims and the families who lost so much. We hold our loved ones a little closer, while we try to reject the fear cowards would impose on us. We are moving on.
I hope, as we move on this year, the Marathon will not have lost its festive quality. With heightened security along the route, will it feel as intimate? There will be no costumes, I'm told. Is it all still too raw? Will it be somber? Has the task of running again been made into too much?
I hope these runners, these middle-to-back of the packers, find a party along the course. They are the ones who could not finish last year, or who finished just before or just as terror engulfed the finish line. The charity runners, especially... they run to combat the ordinary horrors and everyday tragedies that all of us face. Like cancer, or ALS, or Alzheimer's, to name only a few. Of course they are strong.
There are any number of terrors that await us, there always have been. The Marathon is a triumph. We should celebrate.
And if you want to support one of those runners... might I suggest you give it up for my brother Bill?
He runs, as he has for the past 5 marathons, for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Just go here, you'll see what to do.
Really, you'll want to contribute to his cause (Chubby Nation) if for no other reason than to be a recipient of his famously entertaining (and, truthfully, long-winded!) emails. Plus, he made t-shirts this year.
Yes, I said Chubby Nation. It's a long story... that starts with a Chubby Guy, chasing Kenyans. For cancer.
You're intrigued, aren't you? More info here on the twitter.