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Marathon Monday: A Love Story

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I love the Boston Marathon. Marathon Monday is one of my favorite days of the year.

The first time I attended the marathon, I was about 6. My dad took me to a spot on the route--somewhere in Hopkinton? Ashland? I don't really remember where we were, but it didn't matter because I was fascinated by watching thousands of people run by in their 80s short-shorts. Where were they going? Why was it going to take them so long to get there? Could I do that?

Fast forward through a dozen years, several moves, and most of my freshman year at Boston College. BC is past the top of Heartbreak Hill, at approximately mile 21 on the route. We cheered the runners on from Main Gate or Comm Ave. By that time, I knew that I wasn't a runner and would probably never muster the courage to jog more than a mile, let alone 26.2 of them. But that made me respect these people all the more. Their discipline. Their commitment. Their incredibly inspirational spirit. Their absolute craziness. Some people ran in costume, some ran hurt, some ran like it was the easiest thing they'd done all week and others like every step might be their last. But they were out there. My junior year, I lived off campus, right in Cleveland Circle--a block away from the route's curve from Chestnut Hill Ave onto Beacon Street that is so treacherous for wheelchair racers. That was also the Marathon's 100th year. The crowds were massive. There were thousands of extra runners. I remember watching from Beacon Street, screaming for racers to "Go! Go! Go! Four point two miles to go!"

When I graduated from BC, I moved to Brighton--the Commonwealth Ave side of Washington Street, where my roommates and I could walk down the street several blocks right into Washington Square to cheer on the runners. By that time, I was a marathon die-hard. I also learned the stories behind some of the runners, like the Hoyts.  Dick Hoyt has run the marathon, pushing his son Rick in his wheelchair, almost every single year since 1981. This year, John Hancock Financial services commissioned and dedicated a bronze statue of the two of them at the starting line in Hopkinton. They were a mile away from the finish line yesterday when the explosions happened. Or Johnny Kelley, who competed in the marathon 61 times.

After living in Brighton for a couple of years, it was time to get my own apartment. I had a job in publishing, and a car, but I couldn't afford anything in the vicinity of the city. So I struck out along the marathon route--figuring that as long as people could run to Boston from where I lived, I wasn't too far away from the city that I worked in, hung out in, and loved. I ended up in Natick. My apartment complex driveway opened onto Rte 135--right at mile 8. And on Saturday mornings in March, the training groups would start showing up, dodging frozen puddles of mud, braving fickle New England temperatures, testing out the route. On Marathon Monday, I'd go out and watch the runners with my neighbors--and, one year, with my boyfriend's brother. But I never watched the marathon with my boyfriend.

See, my boyfriend at the time--now known as FabHusband--had his own Marathon Monday tradition: tickets to the Red Sox game. It's the only major league baseball game played at 11am on a Monday. So when the bulk of the runners are coming down Beacon St, through Kenmore Square, the attendees at the Sox game are there to greet them and cheer them on. We'd meet up later; I'd get the game recap and give him a summary of who I saw--Will Ferrell, Tedy Bruschi, the Hoyts, some guy dressed as a clown, whatever.

I had the crazy idea that I could run it.

No. Too crazy.

But I walked it. Twice? Three times? I did it as part of the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk, raising money for cancer research. My friend Erica did it with me. It happens in the fall, not on actual marathon Monday, but it's on the actual route and oh my God, did I have an even greater appreciation for those who ran. I walked through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Chestnut Hill, Brookline, and into Boston. Holy moly, that's FAR. Those runners are AMAZING.

When FabHusband and I got married and bought our house--yeah. We're on the marathon route in Framingham. Our street empties out about a mile from Rte 135. And so I've gone: alone, with the dog, pregnant with CC, pushing her in her stroller and holding her hand. FabHusband still goes to the Sox game.

And then came last year. Bugger, my son, was barely three months old. My cousin had won her way to elite runner status in the Boston Marathon. We had a party at my house at 8am--my parents,aunts, uncles, cousins, her boyfriend, her boyfriend's dad--and went up the street to cheer her on, wheeling baby #2 in the stroller. She came in 15th for the women in 2012! Amazing. And this year, same thing: elite runner, bib F26. Her boyfriend had qualified, too, and was running with bib 1067. She finished 21st for the women, shaving 11 minutes off last year's time (last year a lot of elite runners were prepping for the Olympics); he finished in just over 3 hours, at 1:15. We are so proud of them.

They left the finish line at 2:30. Safely.

And now?

I'm heartbroken. Devastated. Angry. A day that is designed around the celebration of the human spirit, courage, and determination--a day designed for family and friends--a day that my favorite city celebrates joyously; destroyed. I'm furious that next year, and forever, there will be a shadow. A pall. There will be sadness and mourning and remembering. It shouldn't be that way. The sidewalk I've walked on hundreds--thousands--of times should not be splashed with blood and shown on the news. It should have been covered confetti and Dunkin Donuts cups that were whisked away over night--not frozen in a crime scene. Tufts and the Brigham and BI and Mass General and BMC should be treating shin splints and sprains, not shrapnel wounds. I should be able to scan the news coverage for shots of my cousin at the starting line (you could totally see her in the morning), not turning off the TV to hide this sorrow from my kids. I shouldn't be feeling grateful that everyone at my house yesterday went to Heartbreak Hill to cheer her on and skipped the finish line. I should be feeling proud of sharing this tradition with people who don't usually come to Boston.

I am thankful that the race volunteers, police and medical teams at the finish line reacted so quickly to triage and treat the wounded; and I am not surprised at the generosity of Bostonians offering shelter, and coats, and landlines and wifi and hugs and hand holding. The people who live here are good people.

I shouldn't have to write this today. I shouldn't have to remind you--and myself--of the wonderful parts of the marathon, that for 116 years was run in peace and with joy. You shouldn't have to feel sad, or shocked, or afraid to come here, or go out, or attend an event. We shouldn't need your prayers.

But we do.

And this is the thing with love stories. Sometimes you get hurt. Sometimes things go wrong, and you don't know why. And you learn to live with the hole in your heart, but it never goes away.

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( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 16th, 2013 02:58 pm (UTC)

Beautifully written. True. Sad that a thing of celebration and triumph should be marred in such a horrific way.

Thank you for sharing your very personal take on this today.

Apr. 16th, 2013 03:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you for your note, Donna. I can't even make sense of this whole thing..
Apr. 16th, 2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
Beautifully said. Prayers, Love and Support from Gloucester
Apr. 16th, 2013 03:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you! xoxo
Apr. 16th, 2013 03:36 pm (UTC)
I'm mourning with you! Thank you for writing this.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Lauren.
Apr. 16th, 2013 03:56 pm (UTC)
Sad. Just so very very sad.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Boston
Thank you, Janet. xo
Apr. 16th, 2013 04:34 pm (UTC)
Hugs. I'm sad for Boston. But I'm very relieved that you and your family are all safe.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you. xo
Apr. 16th, 2013 05:04 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful story, Erin. Please don't let anyone take away that love and those memories.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Tracy. I'll keep going, and keep cheering--I just know my heart (all of our hearts) will be heavy as we do.
Apr. 16th, 2013 05:06 pm (UTC)
I think for many of us who aren't familiar with Boston, we didn't quite understand how important this day is to the city. Clearly it's not "just another marathon." I grew up in a small town where we had the Strawberry Festival every year, and it's been around for a hundred years. Growing up, the parade was something everyone looked forward to and attended. I now understand that the Boston Marathon is like your Strawberry Festival. Whether you like running or not, you go, because it's a celebration of the community.

So thank you for sharing and giving us some perspective. And I'm just so very sorry this has happened and will forever taint the celebration.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Lisa. It *is* like our Strawberry Festival--just bigger, with an international community of runners and spectators. It's a day that is so filled with tradition and love, and it's absolutely criminal that someone tainted it like this.
Apr. 16th, 2013 07:47 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry.
Apr. 16th, 2013 08:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Apr. 16th, 2013 11:27 pm (UTC)
Boston marathan
Dear Erin, Thanks for sharing. I am glad everyone is safe. The lump in my throat seems to get bigger from the event of the day. May God bless all.
Apr. 17th, 2013 12:03 am (UTC)
Re: Boston marathan
Thank you so much for reading.
Apr. 17th, 2013 12:19 pm (UTC)
Such a heartfelt account of *your* Boston! You are clearly a proud Bostonian and do your community proud by your eloquent article. May healing and peace prevail!
Apr. 17th, 2013 04:20 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )


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