The Runners' Web - Page 3
I must have high-fived literally hundreds of people--I just ran past the crowds with my hand held out and touched hand after hand. By mile 20, my hands were numb and stinging. Whenever I felt tired, there would be some little kid with shining eyes by the side of the road holding out their hand, so I would do run over and do another high five and instantly feel better. I saw people from Germany, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Italy, Austria, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand running. I sat next to a woman from France on the bus ride to the start.
The marathon course passes Wellesley College. One of the traditions of the Boston Marathon is that the Wellesley College Scream Tunnel.
The students hold signs saying "Kiss Me" and a million variations on that theme ("Kiss Me, I'm from California," "Kiss Me, I'm A Masshole," "Kiss Me, I'm Graduating Without A Job! "), and they cheer so loudly that you can literally hear them half a mile before you see them. Boston College too--the students line the barricades screaming and holding out their hands to you.
When you enter the race's final stretch the cheering is deafening and that whole area is packed with spectators. It always is a huge thrill to see the finish line of any race, especially a marathon, but this time I had a twinge of regret that this amazing experience was about to end.
A runner next to me turned to me and said, "Isn't this AWESOME?" I just pumped my arms in the air in agreement and cheered. We crossed the finish line.
I wanted to linger and see more, but I left instead.
I used to joke and say that running the Boston Marathon feels something like what the liberation of Paris in 1944 must have felt like for American troops. OK, that's facetious, but a tiny bit true. Is there another sport where people come out to root for total strangers, who are neither famous nor winning?
Up until I heard the news about the bombs, it was a beautiful weekend in Boston. Perfect weather. A tremendous event. I was thrilled to be there for the second time.
It's hard to describe how much joy and energy and trust the whole big-city marathon experience contains. It's open to everyone—just make your way to the road to join the party.
I think people realize, even if they don't run, that there's something simple and primal about you and the marathon distance. I think they know that the hardest parts aren't the middle miles, but at the start and during the final miles—when you have to decide to begin, and then decide to continue when it would be so much easier not to.
That to finish the race, at those points, from the heart, you must say a great big YES to the entire race, and accept everything it will hand you.
I didn't see or hear the explosions yesterday. I was spared. What I saw instead was something much better, and I hope ultimately more memorable. I saw the race itself.
SCOTT DUNLAP, 43, of Woodside, California, covers trail running on A Trail Runner's Blog (this article an excerpt from his blog). The race was his ninth consecutive Boston Marathon, and he says he will definitely return next year.
Scott Dunlap running Boston, April 15, 2013, with Joan Benoit Samuelson in the background.
The finish line was packed by the time I got there, and my functional alcoholism was getting impatient with a 15-to-20 minute wait for a beer. Especially on a PR day! I decided to walk several blocks down Boylston Street and find a pub, and soon was clinking pints with fellow runners and sharing our stories. Then we heard it ... a sound that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
BOOM. A few seconds later, another one. BOOM. What was that? A celebration? A gas leak? Within seconds we had our answer, as all we could see through the pub front window was thousands of people running with panic in their eyes. A crying woman stepped into the pub, saying something about an explosion at the finish line, bodies and limbs ... We all stood there in shock. A few minutes later, the TVs were turned to the live coverage and we got the unfiltered clarity of the horror. It was surreal to see it on TV while hearing the crowds outside, and seeing and smelling the smoke. My senses said to run, but I didn't think it made sense to go anywhere for the time being. But a few minutes later, the pub owner said they were closing. All of the blocks near the explosion were being evacuated.
On the curb, the scene was intense. Nobody could find their loved ones, and feared the worst. Names were being screamed out in helplessness. Local Bostonians couldn't believe what was happening in their community, and tears streamed down their faces. Sirens echoed down the city streets, and bomb units moved in. I hustled across the Boston Commons park and stepped into another pub with lots of big TV screens, texting my wife and parents that I was OK before the phone lines jammed up. The efficiency of the Boston Police Department, medical teams and volunteers was stunning, and the medical tents at the finish line quickly turned into MASH units. The videos showed as many runners going to the scene as running away from it, and it was clear there were 100 people helping on scene within five seconds. Then the counts started to come in ... three dead (including an eight-year-old boy), 125-plus injured, 10-plus amputations already.
Tragic. Senseless. I felt nothing. I couldn't even conjure up anger or denial. It was similar to when I narrowly missed the 9/11 tragedy 12 years ago and couldn't feel anything for days. I needed to do something. I needed to help.