Marathon Monday is my favorite day of the year.
It’s the only day of the year when Boston throws open its arms to the world and welcomes families, strangers, and runners to its streets.
So it was shattering as a lifelong fan to witness the depths of horror to which such an uplifting day could sink. But it was also a reminder of how Boston, my home, is a small city with such a big heart.
Marathon Monday, or Patriots’ Day, is a holiday in Boston. For the past 116 years, it’s been a day to gather with friends and family, barbecue on the front lawn, and cheer until your voice cracks and your hands chafe from applause. It’s been a day where the Red Sox play early so the game will end right when the runners need those fans’ cheers the most. It’s been a day of hometown pride and friendly competition. Strangers cheer on strangers. Runners young and old help each other conquer Heartbreak Hill and, finally, cross the finish line after a long 26.2 miles.
But yesterday, victorious runners, steps from the finish line, delirious and happy, were suddenly knocked to the ground. Blood splattered the blue and yellow finish line. An eight-year-old boy lost his life. A marathon is a celebration and an achievement of a lifetime; yesterday in Boston it quickly turned into a nightmare.
I started live-streaming the marathon at 9:30 in the morning, while at my desk at The Washingtonian. I excitedly watched the entire 26.2-mile elite race, and the waves of the other runners. I felt euphoric, as if I, too, were experiencing that famed runner’s high.
I kept switching from the live feed to the tracking site, watching the running graphic of my friend Cat. I knew something was wrong when I kept refreshing the website, confused as to why the graphic had been showing her at mile 25 for the last few minutes. Something had happened.
Social media confirmed my dread: Two explosions (later, we’d find out, bombs) had gone off at the finish line—and like most people, I’ve been in shock ever since.
When I finally got ahold of Cat, her voice was flat and hollow. She completed 25 miles of the race, but said she felt like she hadn’t even run one. Her lifelong dream of running the marathon had been delayed by an act of senseless terror. Still, she was one of the lucky ones—she can run again. I know a few runners who, though bloodied and bruised by the explosions, will be okay, but I still feel like I lost dear friends yesterday.
As a runner, and a Boston native, this attack hurt on multiple levels. Perhaps we’re lucky to be so shaken by these events, because it means they’re so rare. And the city’s response is what I’ll remember most. It’s heartwarming to see my hometown react with love to an act of hate.
One of my favorite Boston race slogans is “Start strong, finish stronger.” It’s a mantra I’ve often repeated to myself on tough runs and during trying times in life. The running community has heart and spirit. It’s like a family. And the people of Boston will heal because Boston is tough, Boston is proud, and Boston is compassionate. We’ll come out of this stronger. The Boston Marathon isn’t tainted by this senseless act of evil. Those 26.2 miles just mean more now.