When the finish line means even more

Crossing a race finish line, especially a marathon, is always a victory. That sense of accomplishment, of pride, is something every finisher gets, regardless of their time or finishing position.

And sometimes, that finish line means so much more.

This year, as finishers crossed that fabled blue and yellow line on Boylston Street, they crossed for themselves. They crossed for the 264 injured in last year’s explosions. They crossed for the four people who died. They crossed to prove that Boston, that America, is not easily deterred.

Boston was my first experience with a marathon. I had never seen one, never even thought of one, until I started my freshman year of college in the city. This was when the marathon still started at noon, and we packed into Kenmore Square cheering for runners and the Red Sox. 

It would be five years before I came back to run the Boston Marathon — I started running three years after that first time watching at the mile-to-go sign — and every second was awesome. I went back again in 2009, but I haven’t been back since.

Last year, I spent most of the morning live-tracking my friends who were racing. They were all done by the 3:30 mark, and I went back to actually working. But not for long. 

Part of my job legitmately involves Twitter, and it did not take long to hear about the bombings. It was really a pointless day at work. Everyone in our office started checking news reports; some people had friends running the race, others had family who lived in the area. I was checking in on friends, and soon was helping the local paper compile a list of locals there and verifying they were okay. The school district I work for had at least two teachers running, so we checked on those, too.

This year, many people ran to prove a point. I didn’t go mostly because I didn’t want to run a spring marathon this year. It was nothing for or against Boston — and I was certainly not going to let my actions be swayed by an act of terror either way.

And, certainly, we’ve all seen by now the photos and stories of the bandits this year who made headlines. Were there more bandits than usual? Possibly, but that’s not to say there aren’t bandits every year, especially at Boston. Everybody wants to run Boston — especially this year — and sometimes they will do less-than-admirable things  it possible. 

But those people, like all the runners, had a story for why they wanted to run. And this year it was bigger than 26 miles, bigger than a BQ, bigger than the country’s oldest marathon. Bigger than the 36,000 runners, the 100,000 spectators, the countless bottles of water and discarded gel packs.
Boston is one of those cities that encompasses everything that makes up America. Diverse, proud, old, new — Fanieul Hall to Fenway Park, South Boston to Back Bay. 

This year, when I watched Boston, I saw everything that makes our country special. Others did, too, and were buyoed by that spirit. Hometown gal Shalane Flanagan made a run for the win and came away with a PR and a strong showing — and everyone, even non-runners, know that Meb Keflezighi came away with the win. Keflezighi was aided by other American runners, who made sure Meb’s lead extended as far as possible. He became the first American man to win since 19833, and it came this year as a resounding exclamation point to the end of our country’s statement: Boston Strong.

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