Watching Boston

I’m not a TV fan and typically could care less about having the thing on, but there’s two events that I will watch if I’m home and able to: Boston and the NYC Marathon.

I’d also watch the Miss America pageant in high school and college, but the interest in that died long ago. I’m already digressing. Back on topic.

So yesterday morning at the gym, ESPN was on and I saw the commercial for Boston announcing coverage would start at 8:30. Since I did a race on Sunday, I figured a long workout wasn’t that necessary and I wrapped it up so I could be home by 8:30.

No matter where you fall in the running community – whether you’re one of those speed freaks who aspires to run it or a casual runner who simply loves the sport – everyone knows exactly what you mean when you say “Boston” during the month of April. It’s Christmas and the Super Bowl rolled into one. The runners who qualified and got accepted to run it update all of us from airports and hotels letting us know they made it in safely and how many sleeps they’ve got left. The friends and family back home repost pictures and statuses letting us know their family or team mate is going to crush it. It’s an event where even if you don’t know the runner personally, you’re still going to root for them anyways and pray away any cramps, runner’s trots and drastic weather changes.

Yesterday was also the 10th anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing. The attack was the 15th, while the manhunt for the terrorists carried on throughout the week until they finally got the perp (me note: I’m not listing his name here on purpose) late on April 19th. I was a junior in college and the 19th happened to fall on Production Friday, where the newspaper staff would come in at noon and stay until however late to get the campus newspaper together for the next week. We had CNN on and were following the manhunt, eyes glued to the TV when we weren’t working on our pages. The only other event in my lifetime that I can remember getting that much coverage was 9/11.

Following the attack, “Boston” wasn’t just about the race. It was the rallying cry of determined, proud people. The following year, Senior College Allison was helping run an event where we invited author and investigative journalist Michele McPhee to speak. I got to meet and talk to Michele for a bit before her presentation and I gotta say: if you think of a Bostonian, that is Michele. At the time the investigation into the bombing was ongoing, and she was on the phone grilling her source about why a particular, relevant piece of information was never disclosed. I could tell she was a take-no-shit sort, which considering her field and the topic, she would have to be. Blunt, salt of the earth and also generous, I had to do everything to not turn into a fan girl. Michele is still one of my favorite people to meet.

And while we were sharing dessert at Red Lobster (she insisted and I’m not one to turn down sweets), I realized I was seeing the Boston Strong hashtag in person. I had actually been to Boston in November 2012 for a conference, and had enough alone time to go wander the city. As a Midwesterner, I’ve often heard a few things about us. Some say we’re “Midwest nice,” being so concerned with appearing nice and not wanting to be direct that we lean toward passive-aggressiveness. Back in college a few students I knew from major cities often remarked Midwesterners are “super nice because you all know there’s nothing to do out there.” Which is funny and honestly true. Conversely, I’ve heard the stereotype about folks from the northeastern part of the US as being brash, direct and taking no crap from anyone, so if you’re a tourist, just leave them alone and continue taking your pictures. Granted, nobody in Boston was rude to me, but I also made an effort to not get in anyone’s way.

As I wandered Boston that November Friday, making my way from the hotel to the gold dome on the Massachusetts State House and around Boston Common, I felt so free and peaceful. Boston was just, well, it felt like home away from home and I wasn’t nervous at all about wandering by myself. I knew I should have been, since I was in a new city and no one else I knew was with me, but I was so focused on taking in everything around me and that peaceful feeling I couldn’t care about anything else. Well, I take that back. This is embarrassing now, but I was also on the trip with a girl who was unwittingly competing with a guy over. She insisted they were a couple; he was adamant they were not when I confronted him about it. Part of why I spent so much time walking on my own was because I got tired of her mouth.

Trust me Reader-friends, knowing what I do now about triangulation and not getting involved with toxic folks, 31-year-old Allison would absolutely go back in time and whack 20-year-old Allison upside the head for ruining a weekend on two boners (yeah, I said what I said.)

Thankfully, my memories of Boston and the city don’t include stupid people. And they didn’t include stupid people five months later during the bombings when I was glued to to TV, or the year after that when I was meeting and in awe of Michele.

This brings me to yesterday, watching the race. The coverage started with interviewing the Richard family, parents Denise and Bill and their two adult children Jane and Henry. Three people were killed during the bombings. The youngest victim was the Richards’ younger son Martin. The family spoke about the impact of losing Martin, as well as the work of the Martin Richard Foundation that was established a year after he was killed to promote inclusion and civic action. This year Henry and childhood friends of Martin ran the marathon as a part of the Martin Richard Foundation’s MR8 Tribute Team. Martin would have been 18 this year, the youngest age that can run in the marathon, which made the ten-year anniversary even sadder but in a way, more triumphant.

It’s heartbreaking and devastating, and yet with strength and resolve, the race goes on.

I have no aspiration to ever run the Boston Marathon in my life, but I would love to return to the city within the next ten years. Maybe I’ll make it an active trip, or just wander like I did when I was 20 without focusing too much on the wrong thing. I might even spectate the race, although it’s anyone’s guess where I’d be able to stand. Boston is about Boston the race, and it’s also about Boston the spirit that moves with you wherever you go. Instagram runners love the photo opportunities, and everyone who ever finishes a Boston loves the unicorn they get to wear everywhere they go. So many hobby runners would love to run it one day, and if that one day isn’t in the cards for them, they can’t help but turn on the TV and feel wistful for themselves but proud for everyone else.

Before I wrap this up, I need to congratulate the winners of the marathon. Congratulations go to Marcel Hug for winning as the Men’s Wheelchair Champion; Susannah Scaroni for winning Women’s Wheelchair Champion; Evans Chebet for winning the Boston Marathon Champion – men’s division; and Hellen Obiri for winning the Boston Marathon for the women. I was able to capture Hellen crossing the finish line to be greeted by her husband and daughter. You know, I may be childless by choice, but there’s something about a mother and daughter reuniting and exchanging proud looks between the two that will make tear up almost every time. And I did yesterday as well.

I don’t know what I’ll be doing or what exactly I’ll be there for, but one day I’m going to see Boston again.

Yours in running and life,


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