Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I Wasn't There: Boston Marathon 2013

Preface: I originally published this on my Facebook page, a bit after 8PM EST, on April 15, 2013. I somewhat regret having done so.

I was not at the finish line, nor a runner this year. I was not in harm's way. I have run Boston only once, ten years ago, and haven't watched in person, prior to yesterday, for a few years. No one I know personally was harmed, though a few had terrifying close calls. In light of their experiences, and of those injured and killed and those who care for them, I have a great sense of impropriety over having put these thoughts into the public sphere. Though I work in communications and generally know better, like many of us I sometimes use social media to "process" my thoughts and feelings. Like everyone in the Boston area yesterday, I had no shortage of either, though the former were often incoherent and the latter were often unhelpful.

But post it I did. And it started getting shared. More than 200 times at last count. That's fine--despite my ambivalent feelings, if others find some value in it, I'm glad. Some people, kindly, reached out to me to say, "You should try to publish this, somewhere."

With respect to them, thank you, but--no. Not in the context surrounding these events and my second-hand experience of them. As alluded to above, I know at least two former students who were there, one of them very much in harm's way (he's fine, Thank God), and know others who had "near misses" of the kind we always read about: a slower pace here, a faster pace there, a last minute decision. I have been in that crowd, on both sides of the fences, but I was not there yesterday. I don't have a dead eight-year old son and a gravely injured wife and daughter. I have all my limbs; I saw no one lose theirs. It would feel unseemly, literally not my place, to try to "publish" this in any way that might bring money or recognition to me as a result.

So, why put it here, on this blog that I currently never update and that, I assume, no one ever reads? Because I've seen enough examples over the years of widely-shared posts coming back in altered or even distorted forms, or misattributed in ways that have created unfortunate outcomes for many involved. And, I'll admit, because it seems to have resonated in some way for many, so this gives it a "home" should I ever want to share it more formally. So this post is intended to record the original, on a verifiable source, one not (yet) owned by Facebook. I've corrected one typo but have otherwise left it as it first appeared. Comments and backlinks have been switched off for this post; thank you for understanding.

--George Grattan, April 16, 2013

It's the oldest in the country, and often one of the most crowded. It's hard to get into: a guy my age, for example, has to run better than a 7:30 minute/mile pace --for 26.2 miles--in another qualifying marathon just to be allowed to run, or be willing to raise thousands of dollars for charity, in a town where lots of other people are doing the same, every year. (That's how I got to do it, a decade ago today.)

It starts on a crazy downhill. It has strange turns. It can be a blizzard or a scorcher or a monsoon or, like today, pretty close to perfect. (Because it's New England in April, it can come close to all of those in one day, actually...) It requires you to train through a New England winter, if you're a local.

It has motorcycle tribes in Ashland, screaming women in Wellesley, those infamous Newton hills, and boisterous Budweiser enthusiasts at BC. It has that sneaky graveyard hill and those awful trolley tracks on Chestnut Hill Ave. (I remember you, Coolidge Corner, I remember...) It has terrible headwinds at the moments you least need them: crossing a highway, and looking down the final mile or so to the finish.

And because it's Boston, it starts at a small town New England school and finishes next to the library of the self-described (damn right!) "Athens of America."

Today it took a hit, and staggered, and even dropped to its knees, with shock and sorrow.

But like many thousands of runners who do it, every year, when they don't think they can, it's going to find its stride again. And it's going to be beautiful. This marathon is too tough--and this tough city loves it too much--for any other response. No punks get to shut this down, or fundamentally change it, or stop even one person who wants it hard enough--see all of the above--from lacing up next year, and beyond.

Because this year, in Boston, everyday people ran 26.2 miles and then kept running another mile and half to donate blood...or ran back into the dust to help.

Here's to Hopkinton, 2014.