Two years ago, my mother in law and I walked down Boylston Street, pushing a 7 month old Colin in a stroller, as we watched the last participants of the Boston Marathon cross the finish line in front of Marathon Sports.
I had tears in my eyes. Here it was, 6pm, and they were still coming in. No fanfare, save for those of us still milling around. No tape to cross, no banners. The barricades were down. Business returned to normal. And yet, no matter. They were going to finish. It was a real testament to the human spirit.
Yesterday, Kase and I took our two children to watch the start of the race. One of the fun benefits of our new town is that we host the start of the Marathon. Year after year, residents open their homes to host runners from all over the world. We even hosted a co-worker of Kase’s who was running in the race for the fourth time. I wanted my boys to have this experience- to stand among the crowd, feel the overwhelming positive energy of both the spectators and the runners.
My boys. We had no qualms about bringing our two small boys to the start line of such a momentous event. I am sure other parents felt the same way. This was an event that celebrates the human spirit. The inherent goodness of people. That no matter what heat one participates in, whether in a wheelchair or as an Elite runner, they are celebrating their good health, their ability. Their gift. Runners recognize that no matter the reason behind that bib number, they are able to do something many of us cannot. They do it for themselves or charity. Some run alone and some run literally tied to another person, guiding them for 26.2 miles.
And for those who can’t run? We watch. We cheer. We smile like fools as thousands of athletes run by. We stand for hours on the streets of our communities and cheer for family. For friends. For complete strangers. We cheer for their determination, for their spirit.
What I will remember from yesterday morning is the sheer number of people lining the streets of our small, quiet town. I will remember watching runners stretch on front lawns and mingle with their families as they got ready to join their corrals. I will remember the police officers who entertained Colin by revving their motorcycle engines and offering him a seat on their vehicles. Who, quite possibly, became some of the first responders later that day. I will remember the young woman we spoke to, who was going to “hop in” to the race, to join her friend in the third heat. For fun. I will remember the race volunteers, hoisting bags full of discarded clothes into charity trucks. I will remember the scores of children lining the street, including my own son, handing out high fives to the runners as they went by, “for good luck.” I will remember how he smiled and laughed, and how they did the same in return.
It was a magical experience.
And next year? We will do it again.