Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April 15th

I have no interest in watching the memorials in Boston today.  I don’t want to read the retrospectives in the papers.  And most importantly, I don’t want to see the pictures and videos from the afternoon of April 15, 2013.  As a nightly news producer, these are tough demands. Right now, there are no fewer than six television monitors in my peripheral vision showing these very images.  I am sure I will have to show them tonight.

A few months back, a friend and fellow Boston Marathon runner sent me an advance copy of a book by the first newspaper reporters to arrive at the scene of the blasts.  When I got word it was in the mail, I looked forward to reading it.  I’m sure it’s a fantastic book by two excellent journalists.  But, once I saw the cover with its billowing smoke and panicked faces juxtaposed against the backdrop of one of my favorite sites in the world, I knew I didn't want to go any further.  Not now. 

I’m not saying that retrospect and reflection are not valid coping methods.  They just are not mine.  The truth is, for the past year, I have thought very little about the 117th running of the Boston marathon instead focusing as much as possible on the 118th running.  For me, the only way to cope with what happened last year is to move forward.  I loathe that you can’t mention the Boston Marathon without mentioning the words “terror”, “bombs” or “murder” in close proximity.  I detest that the actions of two young punks have come to define this day.

We can’t forget what happened.  We can’t forget the lives that were lost or the lives that were ruined.  But, we can reclaim the Boston Marathon.  What has the Boston Marathon been about since 1897?  It’s been about the power of the human body and the triumph of the human spirit. That’s what we will be celebrating Monday when one million people fearlessly line the streets from Hopkinton to Boston to cheer on 36,000 runners who aren’t afraid of the pain produced by running 26.2 miles in one stretch.  Crossing the finish line that day will end a painful chapter in what has for the last 118 years been a beautiful story. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Boston with a Purpose

Since literally stopping in the middle of a run and deciding not to race the Boston Marathon more than a month ago, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I would experience the race this year. With a non-refundable down payment already made on apartment near the finish line, not attending is not an option.  Even without the down payment, not attending is not an option.  Even though I am physically unable to race at the level I’d like, I’m going to attend in some other capacity to be part of what will undoubtedly be an historic one. 

Originally, I thought I’d spectate. Why not?  It’s a role just as important as the participants’.  Without the support of the massive crowds lining the streets from Hopkinton to Copley Square, the Boston Marathon is just a couple thousand crazy people going on a group run and clogging up traffic.  I also contemplated throwing myself into full work mode.  I could take pictures, tweet, field produce, whatever the mother ship needed.  Then, I remembered Allen Strickland.  I mean, I didn’t ever forget Allen Strickland.  He’s a pretty memorable dude.  But, I remembered he was running and for him, April 21st was going to be an important day for two reasons.

Let’s go back to 2012.  After working his ass off to qualify, Allen, who’s excellent blog is appropriately titled “Allen’s Road to Boston”, had finally made it into the field.  He was in great shape and prepared to run a personal best.  What he and most of the other runners in the field were not prepared for was the heat and humidity.  The Reader’s Digest version is that Allen had a bad day.  The heat took its toll and Allen limped across the line, head hanging, in just over five hours. It’s a sad story of a man’s dream to conquer Boston being stolen by the one factor a marathon runner can’t control.   

That said, Allen’s official finisher’s photo is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I've ever seen.  The juxtaposition of emotions happening here could not be more perfect. 

Also hilarious, an incident that happened to Allen late in the race.  His words:

“Somewhere very late in the race – I can’t be sure where as I was no longer coherent – a belligerent drunk girl angrily berated my fellow walkers and me.  “This is the Boston $%^&ing marathon, the greatest marathon in the world!  Show some respect and run!  Jog it out!!  Jog it the #$%! out!” 

I spent the day after that race recovering with Allen, and he could not have handled his misfortune better.  Allen has been able to laugh about a day that unarguably sucked from the get go.  Perhaps that’s why he formed Team JITFO; the acronym inspired by that drunk girl somewhere in Greater Boston.  On April 21st, he’ll give the World’s Greatest Marathon another shot and he’s allowed me to run alongside him.  Allen’s goal is to set a personal best and if I can help in any way, it will make me feel like I went back to Boston with a purpose.  Granted, my running over the past month has been minimal, but I think I have enough fitness to keep Allen from having to revive me somewhere near Newton. 

Since I last posted, I've gone from being extremely depressed about my Boston decision to being extremely excited about experiencing Boston in a different way.  At least once on every run I think about how electric the atmosphere is going to be that weekend and about being a part of what is bound to be a day I will never forget.  So, thanks to Allen for letting me tag along.  If we get tired, we know what to do.