May 2, 2014 • Kiri Anderer
Runners are awesome! And the running community even more so. I made the trip up to Boston this year to cheer on the marathoners (and my brother), and it was such an inspiring experience. I was amazed by the number of spectators who came out to cheer, way more than when I had been before. And my brother, who was hoping to re-qualify but did not have his greatest race, was determined to at least finish, because it was Boston after all, and a memorable year for the race. I have been to my fair share of races, but there was nothing quite the same as the Boston Marathon this year. When I got home, I immediately signed up for my own next race and cannot wait to be the one running this time!
But first, let me go back a little bit…
I was at work when I heard about the tragedy at the finish line of the Boston marathon last year. I instantly got online and tried to find out all I could. One of my closest friends from college was running, and luckily she had finished 10 minutes prior to the bombs going off. Her husband posted on Facebook “We are all okay” and that was the best four words I had seen on Facebook in a long time. Then I instantly thought of my younger brother, knowing he had lots of friends running, and so I reached out to him and learned that all his people were accounted for as well. It was really hitting home with both of us. Who would want to hurt runners? Why the Boston marathon? What made our community a target? Questions that we would never really get the answers to.
A mere three weeks later, I was on the road to Cincinnati to cheer my brother on at the Flying Pig Marathon. I got my first “Boston Strong” item, and wore it with pride on race day. I was ecstatic when my brother PRed and qualified for Boston. We immediately started making plans to go this year, along with friends and family. Folks questioned my wanting to attend – what if something happened again? But there was no question in my mind whether I would go. I had to. Fear was not going to stop me. Then the bad guys would win, right?
My Mom joined my brother and me for the trek up to Boston a few weeks ago. She had not gotten to see my brother run a marathon in recent years and she really wanted to go too. We stayed near the start since hotels were cheaper there, and it would give my brother the option to sleep in a little bit. While he was missing the comradery with everyone riding the bus out together from downtown Boston, it sounded like there was still enough of that to go around at the Athlete’s Village at the starting line.
The first place we tried to go cheer was between mile 6 and 7. When we arrived, I was surprised to see the street lined with people on both sides, as far as you could see. We had to make our way a good quarter mile down the street to find an open spot. Five years prior when I had gone to cheer for another friend running, we pretty much had that part of the course to ourselves. Of course there were other people out there cheering, but it was nowhere near as crowded as this. And so early before the main race! The mobility impaired runners were the only ones going by at this point, and you could tell when someone was coming because the clapping and cheering would start way down the street. Many of the amputees, other disabled runners and their guides would smile and wave at the crowd as they passed. You could not help but wonder how many of them were survivors from last year. It was so moving to see them out there. Every single one brought a tear to your eye.
Then Team Hoyt passed by. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you probably know their story. It’s a father-son team where the father, Dick, has been pushing the son, Rick, who has cerebral palsy, in an unprecedented number of marathons and other races. They have even done the Iron Man Triathlon. Local Massachusettsians, last year was supposed to be their last year running Boston, but they were stopped short of the finish line. So at age 73, Dick Hoyt said he wanted to finish one more time.
There were also the Team MR8 runners, running for Martin Richard, the 8 year old boy who lost his life at Boston the year before. Hundreds of people sign up to be on the team and raise funds for newly formed The Martin Richard Charitable Foundation. Our cheering spot was actually in front of a warehouse building that had a giant Team MR8 banner on it.
We saw the elite women and then the men cruise by. They said it was the most elite field Boston had ever seen. That actually did not really surprise me, since I think everyone wanted to show their support for Boston and marathon running in general. (And how fitting that Meb won this year, becoming the first American male champion since 1983)
We moved on to about mile 12 next. The roads leading up to this area were packed with cars from the other spectators, and we had to park further away than expected, so we barely caught my brother in time. I was again surprised by the number of people here. The noise levels were astonishing. My brother almost did not hear us yelling for him.
The last cheering location we made it to was around mile 21, Boston College. This is the usual spot where drunken college students are out looking for their few friends who actually run. Alumni of the school wear their gear proud and point it out to the students as they run by. This area was heading up a small hill, small after Heartbreak Hill, and runners would get reenergized by high fives from the spectators. And although my brother had bonked by this point in the race and was walking when we saw him, I was able to walk with him for a little (well, sorta, I was on the other side of the barricades) and make sure he was doing okay. It was getting hot, too hot for running a marathon anyway. But he was still bound and determined to finish. And I was so proud of him that he pushed through and did!
So if my brother qualifies again, I will be there - to support him, to support Boston, to support marathoners, to support the running community in general. Boston will forever remain in my heart. As the world’s oldest annual marathon, nothing can stop it. Boston Strong!
Kiri Anderer co-leads the Adams Morgan/Columbia Heights run.