fitness · running

The Boston Marathon and Catherine, 10 years on

Every year, the third Monday in April is a holiday in Boston. Schools and state offices are closed, as well as public libraries. My university is also closed, giving us a little breather before the last push to finish out the spring semester. You might be wondering, “what holiday is celebrated this time of year?” There are two answers.

Answer 1: Patriot’s Day! It commemorates some of the first battles in 1775 of the American Revolutionary War, (battles of Lexington and Concord) and also the rides by Paul Revere and William Dawes to alert the American colonial militia that the British were coming.

Answer 2: The Boston Marathon! Here’s some info about it from their Wikipedia page:

 [The Boston Marathon] is traditionally held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897, the event was inspired by the success of the first marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world’s best-known road racing events. It is one of six World Marathon Majors. Its course runs from Hopkinton in southern Middlesex County to Copley Square in Boston.

April weather in New England is always a question mark. It’s been unseasonably hot, seasonably cold, and there were fog and rain and gray skies this year.

I love watching the Boston Marathon. Unlike the thousands of folks who throng to the course, holding up signs and cheering on the runners, I take the easy route and watch it on TV, where it’s broadcast live all day on a local station. But it’s always thrilling and dramatic and so emotional. I always turn on the TV in time for the last 30 minutes of the men’s race and 50 minutes of the women’s race; the pro men leave the start line 8 minutes before the pro women, and all other runners leave in waves after that.

Why do I watch every year? I mean, I am not a runner, and I don’t follow marathons or professional running events in general. What I can say is this: in my town, on our local holiday, the local TV station (and now, ESPN too) runs coverage of the whole event until 4pm. This means there’s time to watch humans progressing along a 26.2 mile/42km course– a serious athletic feat, no matter what the pace. Seeing the elite women, running under 6-minute miles (this year’s winning pace was avg 5:40/mile) provokes in me all sorts of emotions : awe, thrill, incredulity, pride, worry (hoping they’ll finish without injury) and appreciation of their dedication, skill and talent.

Here’s a look at Helen Obiri, who won the women’s marathon this year.

This year is also the 10th anniversary of a bombing that happened at the finish line of the marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds, including 17 people who lost limbs. It was a horrible day and a horrible time. There have been many memorials erected and services held to remember and honor all those who were affected by the attack. One of the nicest ones was a 100-golden-retriever one-mile walk to the marathon finish line to honor the late Spencer, a golden retriever who came to be known as the official Boston marathon race dog. Here’s Spencer in 2018, not minding the rain and cold, urging the runners on.

Here are the retrievers who came out to honor Spencer, the day before the race.

Sometimes, you don’t have to be an active participant in an athletic event to feel and in fact be a part of it. This is how the Boston Marathon feels to me. It does inspire to get outside and explore the spring (once the rain stops…) and reminds me of how wonderful and astoundingly resilient human bodies can be. And this year, it reminds me that dogs can help us in processing our pasts and comfort and amuse us in our present. Not such a bad message for a Wednesday, huh?

Readers, are you attached to any athletic events (big or small) in your town? How do you feel about them? How do you participate? I’d love to hear from you. m

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