I don't know if this is the right time to be blogging. I don't know if I should have taught a cycling class on Newbury Street this morning. But, I did and I am, because that's what I do on Tuesdays...even though my heart is broken and my city is weeping. Because I needed to step away from the news and the questions and the overwhelming emotion...and find my strong. The Boston Marathon has been an intimate part of my life every April for the past 12 years. As an undergrad at Northeastern, we would skip class and push our way to the barrier of the finish line, whooping for runners that we never knew. I always had to leave early, and while my friends used their fake ID's to get past the bouncers on Boylston (don't try that now...), I would hop into Van109 and head down Storrow for afternoon practice on the Charles. We could hear the crowds from a distance as the late runners made their way to the finish line.
In 2004, my senior year, after my coxing career was over, I committed to bandit the damn thing with my awesome friend Carrie. We trained diligently in a terribly cold and snowy winter only to find ourselves in 95 degree heat in Hopkinton. It was the most terrible-wonderful-exhilarating-painful race I have ever run. I remember running up the most awful hill of the race -- the tiny one through the tunnel under Mass Ave -- tears streaming down my cheeks as I made the turn onto Boylston. I started sprinting to the line, past revelers that had been me the years prior. I had lost Carrie earlier on and was not expecting anyone to be there to watch me cross. I did not have a number, my family was far away, and my teammates were again at practice. But, as I neared the finish, I heard my name being screamed from just in front of Marathon Sports. My sister, an undergrad at UVM at the time, had taken the bus down to Boston to surprise me and was waiting with the proudest little sister hug. I crossed the line and fell bawling into her arms. The emotion that I felt that day still pulls at my heart whenever I think about it.
In 2010, I took a job as the Outreach Director of Community Rowing, and discovered that one of the most forward thinking youth programs at the boathouse -- G-Row -- had been chosen as one of the BAA's Marathon Charities that year...an amazing gift to any non-profit. So, now as an adult, I had the opportunity to experience the inner workings of the Boston Athletic Association's preparation for this monstrous race while guiding a team of runners through their own 26.2 mile journey. We organized fundraisers, and weekend runs, and gear orders, and coaching sessions...all the while raising tens of thousands of dollars for a little program that changed young Bostonian girls' lives. It made very real for me the incredible meaning of the charity teams of the Boston Marathon. From living the runners' personal connections and stories to being a director of a program that benefited from the immense generosity afforded by the BAA. I was humbled.
Yesterday, my amazing friend Melinda was running her third Boston on Tedy's Team -- Tedy Bruschi's charity that brings awareness to stroke. Melinda runs for her mom, who suffered a massive stroke a few years ago. This year, she was running with her brother. Twice this spring, I joined her to teach a charity ride --stRides for Stroke -- at Recycle Studio, where we met and now both instruct. At the last event, I got to meet her inspirational Mom and Dad and their story became that much more personal. She's kind of my hero (and a ton of other peoples'...)
So there I was this year. I was heading to the finish line to cheer her on. It was 2:30pm, and I had been tracking her online to make sure I timed everything right. I was going to ride my bike over Mass Ave bridge and head down to Marathon Sports. I had dropped JP off at his ritualistic afternoon practice but needed to stop at the bank quickly before I headed down. I never go to the bank. Ever. I hate the bank (...and the post office). The lines make me completely insane. But I needed a cashier's check. I was pissed because I was running late to the course. While drumming my fingers waiting for the teller to type in all the information with his two index fingers, JP called, frantically asking where I was. When he told me the news my heart fell into the pit of my stomach. Instantly, a flurry of texting and FaceBook messaging and tweeting began as we all tried to locate our friends that were out on the course. Through some sort of miracle, all of my friends that had been on Boylston had either just left or hadn't yet made it. My husband's rowing team, who had been at the line only an hour before, were safe with him at the boathouse. Melinda and the other runners I was going to cheer were safe -- either finished already or corralled by the BPD in Kenmore. Now, all there was to do was watch. And cry. And send love. And give thanks.
And that's where I find myself today. After a gut-wrenching night, mourning for our city, the race that is so much a part of us, and the innocents that were harmed, I struggle to maintain composure. I taught this morning because I needed to be there, with the people of my city...and they needed it too. I am writing because I was scared and sad and now I'm mad and determined. Boston is a place that teaches you that. To be stubborn and feisty. No person I know ever backed down from a fight in this town. There's a time for tears, and then there's a time to be strong. Now is the time for strong.
The Boston Marathon is more than a road race. It's a life event where a daughter fighting for her mom can run the same course as the most elite runner in the world. Where athletes, non-athletes, spectators, students and proud families, stand together to honor the work of the runners that dedicate their entire being to crossing the painted finish line on Boylston. It's the best day to be in Boston...to be from Boston. And we will not let this break us. We will cry, but we will teach, and write, and scream and laugh...and run...again.
UPDATE: You know that moment when you burst out crying at the end of an amazing movie when the hero saves the hostages and there's a happy ending? That's how I feel today...except it's real life. We were locked down in our houses for 15 hours yesterday, the carjacking and shooting was a block from my house. My friends' houses were surrounded by hummers and tanks with law enforcement brandishing assault rifles. We went for a run at the end of the quarantine and were serenaded by cruisers speeding to the scene where the suspect had been found. Myself and all my fellow runners cheering them on. A former teammate, turned state police officer, was on the scene when they caught the villain bleeding in a boat. I taught a spinning class where a runner of the marathon had her first workout since Monday...tears and all. My husband and his Boston team had a race this afternoon...they won. Big Papi states, "This is our f*cking city!" at our beloved Fenway.
If there is a definition of surreal, the past 48 hours is it. But, we are #BostonStrong. And I am so grateful to be a part of this amazing city. We will run again. JP and I will run next year. So will everyone else. Because we have to.