I just walked up the hill to my house in Newton, Massachusetts, after watching the Boston Marathon participants run, walk, wheel and stagger past the foot of my street at mile 16. It was a strange sight to see so many people, unmasked and breathing heavily on each other and on the large crowds on the roadside, although of course all of this is in the open air.
There were the usual heart-breakers: impaired kids being wheeled in carts in front of panting parents, vets without legs propelling their low carriages with cranking arms, the occasional runner with metal spring-like devices instead of lower legs. There were the usual inspirations: first the wheel chairs, then the elites, then the real heroes, the thousands of real people panting up the road from Wellesley to the crest of our shallow hill, a couple asking me “is this Heartbreak Hill?” and thus lacking any sense of what awaits them a few miles up the road; and, all those people with gray hair, lined faces, limps and leg wraps, pain on their faces, lurches in their strides, leaning towards Boston and not to be denied.
This is my 15th or 16th time I have stood on this corner and watched the parade of pride and pain. I swear to you this was different, the crowd more supportive of everyone, the sidelines in need of giving support to other people and gaining emotional strength from seeing those people absorbing their gift of support (and if you suggest it was just different for me, well who is to say you are wrong about that?). All of us high on the Boston moment (go Patriots; go Sox) of this 125th running of the world’s oldest marathon, there were two races being run past the foot of Beacon Street today: the road race, and the race of people racing to outrun the isolating memory of the past year and a half.
Today, we all have trudged up the same hills, together.