In April of 2003, I was a spectator at the Boston Marathon finish line for the first time as a lifelong Massachusetts resident. Standing in front of a Boylston Street restaurant with my family (just feet away from where yesterday’s bombings occurred), I witnessed something that forever changed my life.
An older man who was less than 0.1 miles away from finishing his 26-mile trek started cramping up and could no longer move. Without hesitation, two runners near him stopped their own pursuits and carried him on their shoulders across the finish line. It was at that moment that I looked at my parents with tears in my eyes and said, “I’m running this race next year!”
Six months later, I began my training, running throughout the bitter Boston winters to take part in what is by far the best day any city can offer. I ran 2004’s race with my sister and we were both totally blown away by the experience…she was more than happy to be one and done, but I was hooked, running again in 2005 and 2006.
What struck me most was not just the exhilarating feeling as I crossed that line 26.2 miles in (don’t forget about that extra 0.2!) with our friends and family maniacally cheering us on, but the pure goodness that it brought out of everyone. For five straight hours (we weren’t in it to win it), complete and utter strangers screamed our names at the tops of their lungs, gave us water, Gatorade, orange peels, Red Sox game updates, Vaseline, high fives, hugs, and whatever we needed to keep us going. My sister still laughs about the fact that anyone who shouted my name or put their hand out for a high five, I would dart across the street to grant them that high five. It was the purest feeling of joy one could ever experience, and although I desperately wanted to cross that finish line, at the same time, I never wanted it to end.
I eventually moved to New York and ran the NY Marathon, which certainly was a phenomenal experience, but nothing quite compared to Boston. Something about schools and businesses across the state shutting down so that people of all ages could celebrate these remarkable efforts was just so unique… and so Boston.
We now live in Brooklyn and recently launched STATE Bags here in NY, but the concept was actually created while we were living in Boston last year. Jacqueline and I watched our good friend, Conor, make his way to the finish line while selflessly running yet again to raise money for our nonprofit organization.
What happened yesterday will certainly change the structure and organization of future Boston Marathons, but it will only refuel the genuine heart of Bostonians to carry on that strong sense of support shown from Hopkinton to Boston all year long. Patriots’ Day is now every day in Massachusetts and the confusion and anger we all feel now will channel itself into love and compassion for those hurting most.
In one swirling emotion, I have never been more shocked and frightened to see images of my former backyard, but at the same time, proud of the way my fellow Bostonians acted in the face of pure chaos and agony.
The stories of runners darting right through the finish line and heading straight to the hospital to donate blood to the injured is just more proof that hatred and evil will always be overshadowed by love and kindness. Of the many Facebook and Twitter posts I’ve seen over the last 24 hours, this one stood out: “In the end, the terrorists will fail because Bostonians did not turn from their fellow men - they turned toward them. And that is the real music of mankind.”
Our heavy hearts are with our family and friends in Boston. Today and everyday, I am proud to be a Bostonian!