One Year Later

A lot has been written about Monday’s 118th running of the Boston Marathon, and I don’t think I can add any incredible insight, or encapsulate the emotion of the day any better than the hundreds of talented writers who have already offered their observations.

But I feel compelled to write about it, and because I am the boss of this blog, that is exactly what I’m going to do.

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Monday was not a typical day. It was bigger than just a marathon, and bigger than just a city. It was bigger. You could feel it. It was in the air.

If a year and a week before had been one of the darkest days in Boston’s history (although some would argue that it was also a great day on account of how neighbors and strangers came together), than this Monday must have been one of the best.

A dear friend of mine was running so I watching the elite runners from home (although by my standards, she is an elite runner as well, finishing in an amazing 3:13:06) before setting out to cheer her on.

After leading for the first half of the race, Shalane Flanagan fell back in the pack and I felt my whole body sigh. Maybe it was too much to wish that an American would lead us back from the terror of last year. But come on, Americans never win, right? So as Meb Keflezighi pulled away from the pack, I didn’t get my hopes up. But by the time he crossed the finish line I had tears streaming down my cheeks. It seemed like divine intervention. Days later when I read how other Americans in the field worked together to help Meb, I lost it again.

After I composed myself, I set out, sign in hand, to make my way to Boylston and Fairfield. I had cheered other friends from that same spot in past years, but left myself extra time to account for the increased security that I knew would surround the route. Well, I never made it to that corner. I could get no closer than Newbury Street. Check points were closed, barricades up. Under other circumstances I probably would have been pretty annoyed, but I just thanked the police officer who turned me away and devised a plan B.

I finally found her after she crossed the finish line

I finally found her after she crossed the finish line

I wasn’t going to miss cheering these runners, not this year, so after a quick cab ride to Kenmore and secured myself a front row seat at the 25 mile mark, exactly where I knew they need a strong cheering section.

That's how to finish up a marathon

That’s how to finish up a marathon

I always find marathons moving. Watching people of all shapes, sizes and shades leaving it all out on the course gets me every time, and this year those feelings were more acute. There were countless runners who paused to shake the hands of the police officers that lined the course, thanking them for all they did that day, and every day. And for those of you who have run 26.2 miles know that stopping at mile 25 is hard.

The amputee runners made me cry, the visually impaired runners and their guides made me cry, even the drunk BU students with their cheers of “USA” and “Run for Beer” made me cry.

A visually impaired runner and his guide

A visually impaired runner and his guide

Last year I wrote on this blog that I was glad I was in Europe for the marathon and the terrifying week that followed. I had lived through 9/11 as a New Yorker, and didn’t want to be afraid of another home. But I am so happy that I was in Boston for the marathon this year. 36,000 people ran and a million people took to the streets to cheer them on; to prove that you can’t keep us down. We won’t let fear get the best of us, and ruin a Boston tradition, that has been adopted by the rest of the country and world in the last year

No, Monday was not a typical day. It was bigger than just a marathon, bigger than just a city. You could feel it. I could feel it.

Thank you for keeping us safe

Thank you for keeping us safe

From Paris with Love (For Boston)

This week my city was attacked. This is the second time “my” city was attacked. This time I was not there, and I am struggling with that…from Paris.

I had been a little disappointed to miss this year’s Boston Marathon, as disappointed as one can be when the alternative is a trip to London and Paris. I’m a runner and love watching people just like me achieving their dreams. I had watched a dear friend finish the marathon last Patriots Day. I had cheered her on from about a block away from where this year an entirely evil person decided to leave bombs designed to maim my fellow Bostonians.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Moore

Photo courtesy of Hannah Moore

I was in London when I received the New York Times news alert that there had been explosions at the finish line. My first thought was that it was likely an electrical glitch with the race timers. It couldn’t be anything more sinister than that, right? This was Boston after all. Moments later my days-dormant phone was buzzing non-stop with texts and emails from concerned friends making sure I was safe. They knew I would likely be there. And they were right, I would have been. This was the second time in my life I have been inundated with these types of desperate check-ins.

Today, days later, I am still away, now in Paris, and I’m having a hard time thinking about anything other than my family, friends, and fellow citizens who are back home and trying to come to grips with this. I wish I could say the typical “I can’t imagine how they are feeling,” but sadly I can. I was a New Yorker on September 11, 2001, and so I know exactly how they are feeling. The fear, the uncertainty and the realization that things may never be the same. All of it.

I wish I were there. Reading articles and watching videos from half a world away doesn’t give me enough of a sense of how my city is truly doing. In the terrifying days following September 11th, at least I was there to feel and see what was happening, as terrible as it was. I was able to hug, and come together with friends and strangers alike in a common sense of loss, and then defiance. Now I am just left to wonder…alone. The Boston I return to on Sunday will be a much different Boston than the one I left.

One thing I know for sure—because I witnessed it nearly twelve years ago—is that while the city may not be exactly the same, it will be back…and better…and safer. Even from across the world, I can already see it happening. Boston and its citizens are picking themselves—and each other—up. Boston is dusting itself off, mourning, healing, and getting ready to show whoever did this that it takes a lot more that this to break the spirit of our city. Any of our cities.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Moore

Photo courtesy of Hannah Moore

Just like our city, our marathon will also be back, better and safer than ever and I will run it. I never thought I would run another one, but today I am stating for the record that I will run next year’s Boston Marathon, and no psychopath can stop me. I am sure in the weeks and months ahead a group will emerge to help the victims of this terrible attack, and I will raise money for whatever form that effort takes. I won’t be afraid of anything except for Heartbreak Hill…because I’m a former New Yorker, a Bostonian and an American.

Who’s with me?

Flamme de la Liberte. I stumbled upon this on the banks of the Seine, a little reminder of what makes America and Boston great.

Flamme de la Liberte. I stumbled upon this on the banks of the Seine, a little reminder of what makes America and Boston great.