Reflections and insight from a Boston Marathon spectator

Sarah Pardus
Chief Copy Editor

Growing up about an hour outside of Boston, I always knew Marathon Monday as a big deal. I used to be so envious of my mom when each year she would take the day off work to cheer for the runners at the Boston Marathon. Ten years later, I’m now the obsessed runner in the house, and I’m the one who wants to cheer on the runners. When I told my mom that I wanted to come home for Easter this year, her direct quote was, “Don’t kid yourself. You’re coming home for the marathon.” She knows me well, but because she understands the magic of the Boston Marathon, she let me fly home.
As everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past year knows, this year was especially sentimental – it has been year since the Boston bombings: a day that will forever go down in history.
The buildup was intense. I knew quite a few people running and had their bib numbers programmed into my phone so I could track them as they made their way through the incredibly difficult course. My aunt and I walked down to the finish line and around the expo the day before the race, and everywhere we went, I kept saying, “One day it’s going to be me running this race.” The excitement was tangible and the emotions were high.
On April 21, 2014, Marathon Monday, we made our way down towards the finish line. My parents were slightly worried for us and didn’t really want us anywhere near it, but we were probably in the safest place in the entire world on that day. The number of police officers from towns all over New England was overwhelming and there were helicopters swarming overhead just in case anything went wrong. Police were checking bags, making sure there weren’t too many people in one area, and patrolling up and down the course watching for any suspicious behavior.
If there were ever a time for an American to win the marathon, this would be the year. On the female side, Shalane Flanagan had a strong shot at winning. A hometown favorite, the Olympian ran her first Boston Marathon last year, finishing in fourth place. This year, she wanted to win. As a Boston native, it would mean so much more than any Olympic medals or other races she has won. She was quoted saying, “I just really wanted to wear that olive wreath. I don’t care about anything else except for that olive wreath around my head.” Unfortunately, this year was not the year for her to win. After maintaining a solid lead for the first 17 miles of the race, Flanagan dropped down to seventh place. She still ran a personal best marathon time, but her best was not enough to beat first place Rita Jeptoo, last year’s winner, who set a new course record, finishing in 2:18:57. All of the elite women ran incredible races, and none of them should be disappointed by their performances.
Meb Keflezighi, also an American, was the crowd favorite on the men’s side. He used motivation from last year’s race to carry him to a first place finish. On the four corners of his bib, he wrote the names of each of the victims’ names: Martin, Sean, Krystle, and Lingzi. Meb finished the race in 2:08:37, the first time an American has won the marathon since 1983. The cheering was deafening and the excitement was palpable.
But there were so many other heart-wrenching performances throughout the course of the day. There were the members of the National Guard running in uniform, the handicapped athletes in wheelchairs racing to the finish, and the runners pushing their disabled children in strollers. Then there were the four runners who literally picked a man up at mile 26 that collapsed next to the site of where the first bomb went off and carried him to the finish line.
The Boston course isn’t one for the faint of heart. It takes every ounce of physical and mental strength to get over Heartbreak Hill, to cover 26.2 miles of pavement, to train for months or years just to get to the starting line, and to push past the doubt and anxiety that comes with racing a race as big as Boston.
The Boston Marathon is 118 years old, making it one of the olderst race in history. Last year, the Boston Bombers tried to take that away from Boston, but they were clearly unsuccessful. Shortly after the marathon last year, it was not uncommon to hear, “they messed with the wrong city” while walking down the streets. This year every single one of the 36,000 runners along with tens of thousands of spectators showed what it means to be Boston Strong.


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