That feeling you get when you say good-bye to friends or family. It’s as if you swallowed a cantaloupe whole. That sense of being just a step behind the rest of the world. You just can’t feel the beat. That smile on your face. Anyone who knows you can see it’s mostly for show.
The 120th Boston Marathon is now officially in the books. Run and done. Thousands of stories, images, medals and crumpled paper cups. It’s the cups that have my attention at the moment. The detritus of the party that is now over for another year.
Yesterday, before I left for the airport, I saw a news story recapping the marathon. The film included a shot of workers pulling up the tape from Boylston Street: the blue and yellow tape marking the finish line. We posed by it all weekend. On Monday, we strained for it, cresting Heartbreak, grimacing, taking the last overpass at mile 25, only to head down the underpass to make our way to the right turn on Hereford, and then that glorious left on Boylston. And then to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Now it’s essentially erased.
On the T later that day, headed to Logan, the atmosphere was markedly subdued. The buzz and energy of the cars filled with edgy, happy (and nervous) runners were gone. While teal jackets were sprinkled lightly among the riders, most folks were somberly studying their phones or tablets in their last remaining moments before the start of the work or school week. We runners were yesterday’s news.
Oh I know, we need to get over ourselves. Plan the next race and move on. Boston is not a defining moment for most runners. I know several who dislike the hype. Not everyone who qualifies signs up to run it. The course is quirky, and in some ways, so is Boston. You really don’t want to drive in the city, for instance. The weather in April is always……well, it’s interesting, and gives those who are running the race something to expend energy on during the long days of tapering.
For those of us who love Boston, however, saying good-bye is tinged with melancholy. As David Ortiz explained in the days after the 2013 race: “it’s our f*#&-ing city.” Sure, Boston may lack a lot of things that NYC brags about, it’s grittier than San Francisco and more parochial than LA. But Boston wears its heart on its sleeve. And Boston took the horror of 2013 and came back to show the world what people can do to rise up out of tragedy.
Two of the thousands of finishers Monday went across that finish line on prosthetic limbs, having lost theirs in the 2013 bombing. I can’t call them victims, because clearly, they are so NOT that. Another rolled across in a hand cycle. In all,over 30 survivors ran Monday. Martin Richards, the 8 year old boy killed three years ago, inspired a organization created by his family. Formally called the Martin Richard Foundation, it honors Martin’s message of “No more hurting people. Peace” by investing in education, athletics and community. MR8 jerseys were sported by many runners Monday, each one raising money for good works.
Boston Police Officer Lauren Woods was working in the area of the finish line in 2013. In the moments after the attack, Lauren rushed to the aid of Lingzi Lu, a young Chinese woman. Lauren was by Lingzi’s side when she died. Although ordered to leave Lingzi Lu’s side (given concerns about the potential threat of other bombs nearby), Lauren refused. Said Lauren: “it was important for me to stay with her.” When Lingzi’s parents arrived from China for their daughter’s memorial service, Officer Lauren Woods met them, embraced them and told them: “she wasn’t alone when she died.”
It doesn’t end there. Woods ran the marathon Monday, too. Interviewed by Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen, she told him: “When I was running down Boylston, I hit everybody’s hands where Lingzi was. I hit the mailbox, hit the tree.” Cullen goes on to describe her at the finish: “she was standing there, Lauren Woods was, touching the L necklace that Lingzi’s parents had given her. ‘And when I finished the race,’ Lauren Woods said, ‘I felt like I had finished a day that she didn’t get to finish.'”
The day is finished, and for us all. We who shared the camaraderie, joy and trials of Boston this year are moving on, of course we are. We did it last year and with luck, will repeat it all again in 2017. But for a few more days, allow us to linger a bit in the past, to play the blues ever so softly, and to perhaps tell you just one more story about the spirit of the marathon as we found it in Boston this year.