This will be my husband’s ninth Boston Marathon. As is his habit, he has trained for months. Some days he does hills, some days intervals, some days distance. On Sundays during the spring, he’ll call out as he leaves the house, “Going for my long run now. I’ll be back in 3 hours.”
He is ready. Like a lot of this year’s marathoners, he is ready to run so we all can move on.
We were at the Boston Marathon last year. Well, we were and we weren’t. Depends on which Boston Marathon you mean.
Paul crossed the finish line in just over 3 hours—that is to say, when the finish line, and the marathon itself, still meant what it always had.
We watched—my mother-in-law, my older daughter, and I—from Boylston Street, when standing on Boylston Street still felt like it had always felt.
Our Boston Marathon was, for all intents and purposes, a completely different marathon from the one that ended an hour and 49 minutes later.
I was driving Paul home—he, still recovering, eating oranges and sipping Gatorade—when the phone call came. Our younger daughter, at school in Vermont, sounded frightened. She had heard something about a bomb exploding near the finish line. Where was Dad?! Was he okay?
We turned on the car radio, but struggled to connect the words we heard—limbs, bodies, chaos—to the event we had just left. I drove with one hand over my mouth.
Paul quickly checked my phone for messages and we let out a collective breath; our older daughter, who had stayed to watch the rest of the marathon, had texted. She was okay.
The second bomb had exploded a little over a block from where we had been standing.
Greater Boston is a huge community, and yet, when tragedy strikes, astoundingly small. Almost no one enjoyed a full six degrees of separation from the events of that day, or those that followed. Just among our family members, we knew a spectator who was injured, a runner who watched as the second bomb went off, a first-responder who carried out the wounded. Our next-door neighbor had been standing on Boylston between where the two bombs exploded and ran for her life. Our daughter and a friend had been innocently walking toward the finish line.
It was all very, very personal.
Before he ran last year, my husband had proclaimed that 2013 would be his last Boston Marathon. He was tired of training in winter, he said. His aging knees were talking to him. But from the moment we returned home that day—and stared numbly at the TV coverage for hours, as horror and disbelief slowly morphed into anger and sorrow—there was never any doubt that Paul would run again this year.
And so, on Monday, he will. He’ll join with the 37,000 other runners as they proclaim to the terrorists, “You didn’t win.”
And as spectators, his daughters and I will be there waving our banners to underscore Boston’s message to terrorism:
Yes, you succeeded in changing us, but not the way you intended.
Now, we’re stronger.