Let’s start with this: I feel guilty even writing this.
I was one of the lucky ones during the horrific tragedy yesterday at the Boston Marathon. None of my family or friends was injured or killed. They easily could have been. After an arbitrary, inexplicable act of terror, there is no rhyme or reason—there are just victims and no solace.
After struggling through that half-hour of frantic texting and social media monitoring that millions of people went through, I took a deep breath.
I still felt crippled by sadness and confusion.
For all of my life, Patriots’ Day has been my favorite day of the year. When I was a kid, I’d marvel at running legends like Cosmas Ndeti and Uta Pippig burning up the road on our family’s television.
Minutes later, I’d marvel at them for a few fleeting moments up close and personal at our designated spot on the course. The cohort of leading men would gracefully pass us like machines and we’d stay for 15 minutes or so to catch the women, too. Then we’d hightail it back to catch them on our screen crossing the finish to deafening cheers on Boylston Street.
In high school, I was a runner. I ran on the marathon course all the time and knew Heartbreak Hill like the back of my hand. I knew the Johnny Kelley statue by my high school so well that I wrote about it for an assignment in college mostly off the top of my head and got an A.
At college in Baltimore, my love affair for Patriots’ Day didn’t stop, so I pretended I was still there. I skipped a Monday class or two to watch it and tuned in to see the same announcers, the hordes in Wellesley, the punishing Heartbreak Hill and the frenzy at the finish line. It was the same as it ever was.
I live in New York now, but I planned well in advance to get the day off so I could be home to watch it in person again.
I was there yesterday at Mile 23, yelling on perfect strangers and finding something in their attire or appearance to key in on for encouragement. My friends were adorned in blue Forever Lazy onesies because hey, why not on Marathon Monday?
It was a great day for running and everyone felt joyful to be a part of the best regional holiday there is, just like we've felt every other Patriots’ Day.
Then the explosions happened. After those chaotic moments of checking Facebook and my phone, the reality of what the attacks meant dawned on me and gave me an unsettling feeling that still lingers.
Patriots’ Day is not going to be the same. It can’t be after what happened. It’s impossible for me to think of everything before this year in isolation, in a vacuum not completely overshadowed by the deaths and injuries.
The marathon’s finishing stretch has transformed from a hub of jubilation and triumph to one of devastation and terror. Nothing can undo that.
Next year, it’s going to be different. Marathon Monday won’t be the perfect day it’s always been for me from childhood to adulthood. That vision was destroyed permanently, and it’s not coming back.
There will be anxiety and mixed emotions in evidence everywhere on the 26.2-mile course in 2014. There will be a moment of silence, and it will feel strange to yell and be merry like every year before.
Still, nothing’s going to stop me from being on that course next year. You can be assured all of Boston will be there, too.
Since high school, I’ve known I will run the Boston Marathon at same point. When? I don’t know. I haven’t run more than a couple of times in the past month. I’ve never felt an urge for next year to be the year more than yesterday.