Thinking about Boston

The women's leaders, including eventual winner Rita Jeptoo, fly past us at mile 21 of the 2014 Boston Marathon. By Tovin Lapan

The women’s leaders, including eventual winner Rita Jeptoo, fly past us at mile 21 of the 2014 Boston Marathon. By Tovin Lapan

It’s taken me a few weeks to digest my trip to Boston for this year’s marathon—an undeniably joyous, inevitably sad, wholly inspirational weekend in a city that’s usually just home.

As one of Boston’s holiest days turned to chaos and despair last year, I sat on a couch in Las Vegas, riveted and disturbed, wishing I could be there with loved ones and grateful to be far away. I promised myself (and my boyfriend) that this year we would be there. Boston strong. Home sweet home. All of that.

When we landed for a long April weekend that would culminate in the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, there was a buzz of energy about the city that I didn’t recognize—a mix of nerves, enthusiasm, pride and fear. The recent tragedy and the town’s gritty resilience echoed in every BAA jacket, every Boston Strong poster, ever lean-legged runner walking the Back Bay in sneakers. Even the mundane carried the weight of meaning. It was, frankly, a bit overwhelming.

The day before the race, Tovin, our friend Tristan and I hopped the Green Line to Copley for lunch and a little sight-seeing. Instead of staring into cellphone screens or at the passing homes and tunnel walls, strangers on the train were striking up conversations, swapping marathon stories, and sharing why they’d decided to come or who they were here to watch. The ride felt nothing like a normal trip on the T. It was warm and oddly welcoming, like we were all regulars in some stuffy, chugging coffee shop on rails.

By the time I hit the course on Monday morning—mile 21, just past the crest of Heartbreak Hill near my parents’ house—I didn’t know what to feel. So I did what I’ve always done at the Boston Marathon: I cheered, and watched, and marveled, and encouraged. I hugged runner friends who arrived red-faced and beaming, laughed at the military police taking pictures for posing families and screamed my head off when Meb came streaking by on his way to being the first American to take the laurels in decades.

And when it was time to go, I finally felt calm. Boston strong. Home sweet home. All of that.

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