After I’ve accomplished something, I tend to downplay its importance and difficulty. “If I did it, anyone can do it.”
The same applied to the Boston Marathon. I worked my ass off to qualify for it. I registered. I fundraised. I ran.
I had never been so emotional during a race than when I made that right on Hereford and left on Boylston. My throat closed and my eyes blurred with tears as I ran by the sites of 2013’s bomb #1 and bomb #2, marked with blue and yellow ribbons on signposts.
Then, it was over.
I completed the legendary Boston Marathon, the longest running annual marathon in the United States. I celebrated with a Sam Adams 26.2 Boston lager (actually, a few) and was greeted at home — wearing my Boston jacket and medal — a couple of days later by a crowd of runners.
Fast forward to two years later. When people see my jacket or the decal on my car they ask, “You ran Boston?” and, without a thought of the emotion, effort and joy of the race, I say, “Yep. 2015.” Some seem to be in awe. Their eyes light up. They congratulate me. “That’s amazing,” they say. But my reaction is pretty indifferent.
That changed tonight.
“BOSTON: The Documentary” changed me. When I say it was literally the best documentary I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s not an exaggeration. The film was the perfect mix of all of the historical moments that make the Boston Marathon so iconic, from its humble beginning with 15 runners to the year Heartbreak Hill earned its name to the year Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win the race in 31 years. (It was hard not to throw my hands up and cheer as I watched him cross the line during the documentary, just as I did in 2014 when I watched it live on TV.)
In the past week most people who read the news, or at least what’s trending on Twitter, have learned the story of Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to officially register for the Boston Marathon. She did it as K. V. Switzer in 1967 and was nearly pulled from the race — literally, she was attacked by the race director before her linebacker boyfriend knocked him to the sidelines — near mile 4. She wore bib #261. At age 70 this year, 50 years after that legendary day, she completed the marathon again along with a sea of “261 Fearless” members.
“BOSTON: The Documentary” included more stories about fearless women who have run Boston. Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to run the race, a year before Switzer did. She did it unofficially, though, as a bandit. Canadian Jacqueline Gareau won the race in 1980, but was denied her moment of glory when another runner, Rosie Ruiz, broke the tape instead. It was later determined Ruiz hadn’t run the entire race, and Gareau was named the winner.
Trust me, the documentary tells it better.
The film’s most emotional moments depicted the scenes and stories from the 2013 bombings. I cry now just thinking about it. I’ll never get over the gut-wrenching pain felt from watching the sanctity of our race destroyed by murderers — and I wasn’t even on the same coast. On the flip side, the courage of the spectators who lined the streets the year after the bombings fill my heart with pride and a deep love for our running community. We are fearless and we are Boston Strong.
There was a quote in the documentary about how the spectators view every runner in the Boston Marathon — from the elites to the folks who cross the line last — as heroes. That single quote brought back that day for me in 2015 when I ran from Hopkinton to Boston. The crowd is what MAKES the Boston Marathon. The energy produced by miles of clanging cowbells, countless homemade signs, the most sincere cheers shouted in Bostonian accents and impromptu aid stations cobbled together by local residents is second to none.
I am honored to have had the opportunity to experience it. I’ll never take Boston for granted again. The documentary sparked in me a determination to go back. 😉