Our Marathon

by gillis

I remember watching Johnny Kelly cross the finish line each year. I remember Bill Rogers winning the race – four or five times at least. I remember the amazing Uta Pippig winning nearly as many times as Bill Rogers. I even remember Rosie Ruiz. And who could forget watching the Hoyts each year? Those fixtures of the Marathon symbolize all that is good and right with the world. In our suburban house the small black and white tv in the kitchen was fixed on Channel 5 each Patriot’s Day, with Natalie Jacobson showing just the right amount of awe and respect for the runners as she gave us the updates and then the final results of the race. We learned about their training routines and their lives in faraway countries. And when victory was won, we saw them awkwardly crowned with olive leaf garlands. No one in my family was a serious runner, but it didn’t matter, this was our Marathon, the race was a big deal and the runners were worthy of our attention.

When I left the house for a series of rentals in Dorchester, Cambridge, Brookline, Brighton, and Somerville, I was able to watch the marathon in person and usually I did. One year it flowed past my apartment on Chestnut Hill Ave. and I stood outside for hours until my voice was raw and my hands were numb from clapping. Another year I volunteered to work at the race, past the finish line, and I saw just what 26.2 miles asked of the human body. It was terrifying and awe inspiring as most spiritual things are.

If you have ever watched the Boston Marathon in person, have ever cheered for those of us able to run this race, have ever felt that part of the human spirit that says yes to life so loudly and so brightly up at such close range then you know what someone tried to take away from us yesterday. If you haven’t, I’m not a strong enough writer to convey its beauty to you, but you should know that it truly is beautiful. It will move you to tears – repeatedly – to see tens of thousands of your own doing such a thing. You might believe that anything is possible when you are standing there, handing runners plastic cups filled with water and the eye contact you share with these strangers makes a searing impression on your psyche. These runners will make you believe anything is possible. They will make you believe in the beauty of this imperfect, messy, ridiculous world. They will inspire you to believe that you can achieve the impossible because they have just achieved it. Right before your eyes. And it feels almost  holy to witness.