This was my second year as a spectator in Boston, and once again it did not disappoint. From the moment I arrived at the Indianapolis International Airport I ran into runners and their support crews. Everyone was excited and everyone had a story. Some people were discussing the crazy miles they put in, some the weather they had to train through, others discussed their nutrition and hydration issues. It was clear: everyone worked their butts off to get here and every one of their support crew members could not beam any brighter with pride.
Since I wasn’t able to arrive in Boston until Saturday night, I didn’t get to the expo until Sunday. We missed all of the speakers I would have wanted to see, but luckily Runners World had a pop-up shop across from the convention center and had a few speakers I was stoked to see. The first was Shalane Flanagan. I have seen and met her a few times before, but this was the first time I was actually able to hear her speak. What a soft and gentle soul who seems just devoted to the sport she loves! You could tell she was frustrated with her injury and with doping in the sport, but she remained gracious through the whole talk. It’s always nice when one of your running role models doesn’t disappoint when you see them in real life.
The other speaker was Bart Yasso. He reminds me of the really cool cross country coach who has 1000’s of incredible stories and tells them as though it was nothing. Bart shared some Boston stories along with tales from other races and travels. I’m bummed to hear of him retiring as I fear that’ll be the end of his stories for the public, but certainly well deserved.
This year the Boston Marathon weekend coincided with Easter. This meant that getting into the service for the Blessing of the Athletes was a feat in itself. After one failed attempt we made it into the third and final service of the day. A beautiful Easter sermon was given and the athletes were blessed complete with a bagpipe performance. Talk about a huge lump in the chest. To know that every athlete in that room is nothing short of extraordinary having overcome so much to be there – humbling.
If you’re in Boston, even if you’re not racing, you have to run. Adam and I went for a 6 mile run through MIT and paused in front of the Shawn Collier Memorial. A beautiful tribute to a brave, selfless man. We then ran over the Charles River (and stayed along it) until we could see THE Citgo sign, and then ran back across the river so we could indulge with a lobster dinner.
Sunday morning we dropped off our athlete at the bus to the starting line. One porta-potty visit later we were at our viewing spot by 9am. Last year we planted ourselves just past the last hill where every runner would first see the finish line, and that’s where we were this year. When you know you’re standing in one place for almost 7hrs (literally, one place), you don’t eat or drink anything, and you wear compression socks and have good shoes with Superfeet insoles for added support. (Just a tip for future spectators) You also make friends with the people around you to make the time pass.
First are the wheelchair athletes, the elite females, elite males, and then several waves of runners. I was super excited to be at Boston this year since several of our American Olympic marathoners were running this year. I’ve only seen them run on television, so a front row seat to see them run live was a thrill! It was absolutely fantastic to see our American runners rank so well in a pretty strong field this year.
After the elites pass, you get to cheer for 30,000 other runners. Some run by with a smile, others do a dance or pose for the cameras. Some see the finish line and start to cry, some get cramps or start to vomit. You know they have worked hard the whole way, you know they’re in a great deal of pain, and to see them with a shadow of doubt until the crowd cheers them on to hope and a belief they can finish will bring tears to your eyes.
I’ve run 19 marathons so far, but only have cheered as a spectator in 3, and not until last year. To see people dig so deep, to push their bodies to the limit, to literally carry other runners through the finish, to see people of every race, religion and orientation all run together without question or thought, gives one hope in the world. If we can essentially bring the world together for one day in a peaceful race, perhaps there is a possibility it can spread wider and longer.