Jerry reacts to the Patriots Day attack on Boston.
As I’m sure you would expect, that last few days in these parts have been very difficult and emotional ones. I have enough loved ones that live, work, and go to school in the Boston area to make for a great deal of breath-holding until all were accounted for. My wife, daughter (the Tufts grad) and I had considered going in to watch the finish, but had changed our minds, settling instead for lunch in a Somerville tavern, where we could watch both the Sox and the Marathon at the same time. Obviously the father in me is glad we avoided the threat, the school teacher in me is sorry I wasn’t there. After forty years of dealing with high schoolers, I can look at someone and know when they are up to no good, and like to think I could have helped in some way.
In addition, I’m sorry I wasn’t there because of all the memories I have tied up in it as a former participant. Of my thirteen total marathons, the last four were Bostons. I was never an “official” runner in the BAA, rather particicpating as what was referred to back then as a “Bandit”; but that never matter to me, nor the thousands of people who lined the course. They cheered for you just as loudly and as passionately as they did for the lead runners. The fact that this was back in the days of the noon time starts, and that they likely had been partying for a very long time at this point, might have had something to do with it. I could never be sure who had the more impressive feat of endurance, me for running 26.2 miles or them for their six straight hours of partying. One way or the other, I could not have done it without them.
One of the highlights for all runners, was running what was referred to as the “Scream Tunnel” made up of Wellesley College women, somewhere around 16 miles or so. I believe my first Boston, probably in about 1987, was likely the last time this occurred. It was almost literally a tunnel, with the young women lining both sides of the street in such numbers that you could not run more then five or six abreast. The roar it created could be heard a mile a way, and the sensation of running the tunnel had to approximate what a Joan Benoit or a Frank Shorter must have felt entering the Olympic Stadium. In subsequent years, the spectators at that stretch of the course were restricted to one side of the road. They were still inspiring (you could not even consider walking at this point) but it wasn’t quite the same feeling.
As strange as it may sound, I used to look forward to Heartbreak Hill. As a fairly large distance runner (say in the 190-195 pound range at that point) the essentially downhill aspect of the course used to put a real pounding on my quads, so running the rather gentle slope of Heartbreak, gave my legs a bit of a break. The fact that it’s a mile long is another thing all together, but when you get to the top, it’s a mere 6.2 miles to the finish. It being downhill the rest of the way (as some well meaning BC student would likely tell you) was not welcomed, but at least the end was in sight.
Going through Kenmore Square, past Fenway, looking for the right on to Hereford St before taking the left onto Boylston, was obviously my favorite part of the day. I’ll always remember looking up on Hereford just as I was about to turn and seeing my family there to cheer me on. It was a feeling of great pride and accomplishment, only surprassed when I saw my daughter (then a senior at Tufts) running in the 2007 marathon, making the same turns, as she finished the first of her two (so far) Bostons.
These were some of my thoughts and memories as I watched, over and over, those chaotic scenes on Monday. Knowing that the lucky ones had only been deprived of that joy, while others suffered far greater losses. I know the Marathon’s finish will never be the same. But I also know that next year, I will be there. I think I have to be…
Featured image courtesy of: The Duffy-Cabana family