I am rarely at a loss for words. Rarely. Saturday, between the more than 150 people running for Martin Richard, the people inspired by, and running for, Team Hoyt, and the people who never ran a 5K but started training for their first, the BAA5K, after the bombings happened last year, and "had to because I sure can't do a marathon!", I was actually at a loss for words.
We took back the finish line on Saturday, a perfect day for a run. We did it again Monday. People running with prosthetic limbs, people running with blue and yellow tutus. Blue and yellow everywhere, office building fronts, anywhere there was a window there was at least one pot with yellow daffodils in a blue Mylar outer lining with "Boston Strong" on it.
People from everywhere came. Not to run the Boston Marathon, as that's normal. But to run a 5K. Keep in mind that 5Ks are "local". This 5K was bigger than that. It was about hope, about defeating an idea, replacing sad, scary, painful memories with happy ones, with triumphant ones, with smiling faces, with calm and joy.
I saw a sign along the route that said "turn your I think I can into I WILL". I finished it in my mind. "I DID!"
A year later, I'm still stunned sometimes that it happened at all. That my hometown was torn apart, that such awful stuff can happen in this place I call home. But it did. This year, there were police officers everywhere. Pardon the expression, but you could swing a cat and hit at least a dozen cops and a K-9, too.
There were about 5,000 runners for the 5K last year. This year it was 10,000. This year's race wasn't about personal bests, though I ran mine. It was about something much bigger. It was about thousands of people, whether runners or spectators, doing their small part to turn something heart wrenching and ugly into something heartwarming and beautiful.
When I lived in Boston, and watched the runners come in, I was always in awe. Running today, I would hear and saw people cheering me and the rest of the runners on. More than one person held a sign that said, "You are Boston Strong!" Yes, I am. And resilient, too. I bounce. We all bounce. I fail. We all do. I get back up. We all do. And dust ourselves off, try to process what happened and we keep going. I got knocked down. We all did. But we go back up. Ran in every condition imaginable and made plans to be in Boston for Marathon weekend 2014.
Whether you were running or spectating last year, you know it was a party as well as an earned celebration. Until a crudely made IED went off, and then another. And everything changed.
People found out what they were made of. The stories abound. Runners running 26.2 miles then continuing to run to the nearest hospital to give blood. Because it was the only way they knew how to help. Keep running.
Before the smoke cleared, I knew it was a bomb, set deliberately after the K-9 sweep. Meant to kill, injure and maim. To cause pain. Because hate and apathy tries to breed the same. In my experience, most of the time it strengthens will. It forges resolve. It makes people who don't run, run. People who never ran a 5K, run a 5K. People who "didn't run" train and qualify for a marathon so they could run the Boston Marathon.
It makes people who aren't sure of many things sure of one thing. They will not let terrorism win.
I got to run side by side with people running for people and causes, Martin Richard among them. Richard was killed by the first bomb that went off at the finish line, having just witnessed his dad cross the finish line. Then there was Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed by the bombers while sitting in his cruiser. The other 2 victims were Krystal Campbell, who was killed when the first bomb went off while watching the race waiting for her friend's then-boyfriend to finish the race
and Lu Lingzi, who, like thousands of others, was watching runners come across the finish line when the bombs went off.
All four victims had people running the 5K, the Marathon itself, or both, in their honor. That's when love wins. Love overtakes shadows of hate.
A photo of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy killed in the Marathon bombing, holding this sign has come to symbolize the tragedy worldwide. | Photo: Boston Globe | Link |
It was 38* when the run started, a perfect day for a run. When people were turning at Charlesgate, the one part of the race where people were coming and going at the same time, in the same space, people were encouraging each other, high-fiving each other while running. That's when love wins.
As I was running up Hereford to turn onto Boylston, the American flag was hanging from Ladder 33, one half of the fire station that lost 2 of its own to a 9 alarm fire in Boston's Back Bay on March 26, 2014. My heart skipped a beat. I was there. I kept running. I ran past the Forum Restaurant, where the second bomb went off. I kept running, overwhelmed with emotion. "If I stop, they win," I thought. I stopped for a second to take a picture of my feet on the Boston Marathon finish line, still .6 miles from the 5K finish line. I took a picture of the bridge at the Marathon finish line, while I was running. Both turned out beautifully.
Was I afraid when I was on Boylston St.? Not a bit. Exhilarated, actually. I DID IT! And I kept running, along with 10,000 others, and more than 36,000 who ran on Marathon Monday. For Martin Richard, Krystal Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and MIT police Officer Sean Collier. For the 260 who were wounded, maimed or otherwise injured. For the people who can't run. For myself. For Boston, my home.
More cheering people. I've never seen that many people cheering for people running a 5K. But then, this was no ordinary 5K. This was no ordinary run, no ordinary reason, no ordinary city, and no ordinary people.
This is Boston. We got knocked down, we mourned our injured, buried our dead and we're still healing. But this run, this 5K, and this Boston Marathon were very powerful steps to healing and moving on.
When I told someone I was running the 5K, they asked if I was from Boston. "Yes, I am." Then they asked me if I hated the bombers. "No, I don't. Because hate eats at me, not them." I am still working on forgiveness. Some days I'm there. Some days, not so much. Because forgiveness isn't about them, it's about me.
This year, it's about our city, our Marathon, and OUR finish line. It's about moving on...and living "Boston Strong".