I’d read about it before my first trip to Boston, but nothing in print prepares one for the reality, which includes:
Homeowners and compatriots hooting and encouraging from their front lawns as you leave the holding area at a Hopkinton school yard to walk the half-mile or so to the actual starting corrals.
Friends and family six-deep and more at the start, snapping shots of loved ones as they finally find enough open pavement to break into a run, bursting with energy pent-up thru several hours of waiting, queuing and standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
Barely as much as twenty feet of unoccupied curb on either side for the entire distance. (Except one thinly-wooded stretch early-on, where lots of male runners were stopping relieve themselves, barely off the route and not at all concealed – come on guys!)
Service-women and -men in uniform controlling traffic at many of the side street intersections along the way; a great honor to be so cared-for by you.
The colleges: yes, there are hundreds of college students in Wellesley and Boston College, generously offering the kind of hysterical enthusiasm that comes from being cooped up on small campuses with large expectations. Much appreciated!
Signs – some clearly aimed at a particular runner, but tons offering non-specific encouragement, with the result that even an out-of-towner feels like they are running thru family and friends the whole time, making this feel like a home-town event, no matter where one hails from.
The volume! You want to plug-in for extra encouragement thru the late-teen miles? Fugeddabout it! Not only is it impossible to hear over the crowd without cranking-up to a head-splitting level; it quickly becomes clear that not even Born To Be Wild is as effective a spur as all those voices and faces! Plug-out and observe; this is priceless
Crescendo – by mile 22 or so, the bigger buildings are closing-in, the crowds even thicker and the volume just continues to grow, equally-heartening whether you are struggling to hang on or ready to start squandering some hard-won hoarded reserve for a strong finish.
Rounding the turn onto Herford street it seems like it can’t get any better (visions of Olympic rings and Super Bowl trophies may come to mind, as you picture your own private ‘Miracle on Ice’), until that final left onto Boylston kicks you in the shorts even more. How can you not give your all to these people who fill the sidewalks, standing in the cold, or rain, or baking sun, beaming their own personal energy and emotions out to supplement whatever you have left?
Which brings up a somber thought: none of the reporting I’ve seen about the tragedy of 2013 has sufficiently emphasized that the bombs were placed not on the course, but in the midst of the spectators at the finish. The majority of those injured that day – and all of those killed – were not runners at all, but people who had come to cheer them on. People who would get no medals that day, would have no finishing-time to put in their logbooks; who were only there to encourage others.
And the next year, the crowd was bigger than ever!
Running a marathon is in many ways a selfish pursuit; spectating at one is just the opposite; an act of generosity and even love.
SO THANK YOU BOSTON CROWD, YOU ARE WINNERS, EVERY ONE!