My running man was calm and contemplative. There will be plenty of time for excitement and adrenaline. Gotta pace yourself right from the get go.
At six am Doug quietly opened the door of the apartment just as another runner walked out of their room. 25,000 of them are pouring into the streets and heading for the buses that will drive them to Hopkinton. The Boston marathon, as I discovered, does not start in Boston. It starts far out in a little town called Hopkinton that is just about to be swarmed by runners. When the race starts, they will run through six towns before they enter Boston for the final stretch.
There were several start times. The wheelchair racers started first at 9:17am. The elite women were next. At 10am the elite men and the first wave of runners started. The second wave was at 10:20am and the final one at 10:40am. Because of their qualifying times, Doug and Jim were in wave 2. The rest of the Runners' Edgers were in wave 3.
Thanks to modern technology, we were able to track runners online and could see at what times they crossed each 5k mark. It's reassuring to be able to see that those you care about are doing fine and holding their pace. During one stretch Doug's pace dropped significantly and a bit of worry set in. Turns out he was too hot and had to stop to take off a few layers and reattach his bib number to his t-shirt.
Spectators started lining the streets near the finish line at 7:30am. Janice and I arrived at 10:30am and staked out a spot right outside the apartment. The Boston marathon basically runs down one long road and then makes two famous turns at the end. Right on Hereford and left on Boylston to the finish line. Our apartment was on Hereford so we could see the runners turn the corner for the final stretch.
Being that close to the finish line means that we got to see all sorts of things. We got to see the elite runners battle for first place.
We got to see the pain and determination on their faces.
We got to see the famous people.
And we got to see the sheer joy some runners felt as they reached the end of their Boston journey.
The crowds were amazing. They screamed and clapped for hours and ramped it up to fever pitch for the runners who needed it. After running for hours, some runners had nothing left. They came to halt and start walking. That's when the crowd would start cheering them on. When they found the strength to run again, the cheer turned into a roar. Countless runners were carried across the finish line by the power of the crowd.
It's difficult to describe how it feels to be in Boston and to experience the marathon. As a spectator, the sights are forever burned into my mind and the screams and cheers are still reverberating in my head. As a runner, I'm sure it's a completely different and yet no less moving experience to run down the roads of history.
Walking back to the apartment afterwards, people on the streets burst into spontaneous applause when a marathoner walked by. Runners wore their medals with pride and anyone who struggled to step up on to a curb was looked at as a hero. Those who didn't run can't really know what it felt like, how hard it was and what demons were conquered. But we do know that it takes a degree of strength and passion that has the power to move people to tears.
Congratulations runners! You have run your dream and, in doing so, inspired others to dream with you.