I live near mile 24 of the Boston Marathon. This means I can always expect two things: an exciting day for my neighborhood as people watch the runners go by, and me being hoarse at the end of the day because I’ve been cheering my brains out.
I’m strategic about how I scream. I look for runners who seem to be struggling. I tell them they’ve almost made it … after all, what’s 2.2 miles after you’ve already gone 24?
I let them know they’re awesome. I scream things like, “Way to go!” and “You can do it!” If there’s anything written on a T shirt, I’ll scream that too. “Go Kentucky!” or “Go Jenna’s Mom!”
Yes, 2.2 miles doesn’t seem much to the average person, but if you’ve just run 10x that distance it can seem impossible. I think as a spectator it’s our duty to give them our love and help boost ‘em along the route. I yell for them, and I hope if I ever do a marathon someday, they’ll yell for me. And I’ll definitely be wearing a T-shirt that says something.
And the Hoyts … let’s not forget Team Hoyt. Can a father be more dedicated to his son than pushing him in a wheelchair for 26 miles? They’ve run Boston 30 times now (plus over 1000 other races including triathlons) and every time I see them, I cry. I can’t help it. There’s so much love there, I just tear up (even now as I write this). They are tremendous men and have inspired thousands to be better people. I love that.
My second favorite part of the day is to watch the coverage from the finish line as the middle of the packers come in. Yes, watching the elite runners is fun … they go so fast it just doesn’t seem humanly possible. But the middle of the packers and the back of the packers … those are my people. The regular Joes trying to do something extraordinary and succeeding.
The look of relief, joy, accomplishment, pride … pain. It’s all there. From the 20-something perky Mom getting hugged by her kids to the 40-something guy kissing his medal as he walks after crossing the finish, alien silver blanket wrapped around him.
I always hope for a wedding proposal and there’s usually one or two. A couple runs together, smiles at each other, and suddenly the guy is on one knee and the girl is crying and nodding happily and then there’s a big sweaty hug.
What makes Boston special is the combination of the runners and the crowd. We love our history — this amazing race — and we want to be part of it even if we’re not running. We know Boston is special and it’s because of the experience it provides everyone, runners and others. It is a big hug of a moment every year where the city and its suburbs come together. I honestly don’t think any other race can touch it.
Yes I hope to run this race someday so I can experience it from the other side of the curb. And if I do, I’ll be wearing a T-shirt that says Boston Proud … and I hope they’ll yell for that.