My personal experience at Boston’s Run to Remember can be summed up in one sentence: I cried like a baby and ran like the wind.
But of course, there was so much more to the race than that.
This was hands-down the most inspirational, moving race I have ever run and I can’t imagine that anything will ever top it. It was so much more than a race. It was a tribute to fallen officers, especially Sean Collier, the MIT Police Officer who was killed by the Boston Marathon bombers. It was a celebration of all police officers, who put their lives on the line on a daily basis to ensure our safety. It was a show of solidarity, with police departments from other Massachusetts towns and cities as far as New York City and Chicago sending teams to run in the race. The Chicago PD even brought their uniforms in case they were more needed on the security side instead of the running side. Talk about a brotherhood. And it was a show of strength and community – showing that we are not afraid to run, we are not afraid to spectate, and we are not going to let the acts of a cowardly few stop us from doing something we love.
Although the race honors ALL fallen officers, and a far- too-large mural hung with the names of all members of the BPD who have been killed in the line of duty, the Boston Marathon bombings were obviously a big focus of the event. This was the first big running event in Boston since the marathon, and the tragedies of that day weighed heavily on everyone’s mind. Runners were asked to wear their own bibs on the front of their shirts, and to wear a Bib bearing #179, Sean Collier’s badge number, on their back as a tribute to Sean, who had planned to run the race. That, combined with the incredibly moving speeches, the intensely emotional crowd, and the hauntingly beautiful playing of bagpipes for the fallen officers, had me bawling as I waited for the race to start. And I wasn’t alone – not by a longshot.
The race course was great, starting in South Boston and taking us through the streets of downtown Boston, passing tourist highlights such as Faneuil Hall, the North End, the Public Gardens and Beacon Hill. Most of the race took place on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, giving a great view of Boston, passing the campus of MIT and providing glimpses of Harvard in the distance. Even putting the “meaning” of the race aside, it was so, so special to be able to run the streets of my city. I had never before run a race through the city of Boston and cannot wait to do it again. The course was nice and flat. The weather was typical Boston –cold, rainy at the start; sunny and noticeably warmer at the finish, with a strong wind coming off of the water throughout. Impossible to dress properly for it, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It reminded me that I was home.
The police officers were beyond amazing. Within the first mile of the race, it became clear that this was not a race that you would run to try for a PR. There were just too many people to thank and acknowledge along the way. Groups of police officers lined portions of the streets and gathered on bridge overpasses to cheer us and thank us for running. The most emotional stretch was in front of MIT, where Sean Collier was killed. There was a several block stretch of MIT and Cambridge police officers lining the side of the road, arms outstretched to slap hands as we passed. Everyone in my group immediately moved to the side, pace be damned, to return the cheers and thanks. Tears, grief and gratitude summed up that stretch.
The spectators were also wonderful. The race started at 7 AM – on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and yet the streets were still full of spectators. I can happily confirm that Boston fans are still game to head out and cheer on a race. Even at a ridiculously early hour on a holiday weekend. I especially loved seeing signs saying “Go Runnahs!” and “Run Wicked Fast!,” adding a little Boston humor to the race. (for those who don’t know, “Wicked” is a Boston-ism. Not as in evil, but as in very –something can be wicked awesome, wicked hot, or wicked fun! Someone can even be wicked smaht.)
It may sound weird, but I can’t really recap the actual running experience because I don’t remember it well. I was so focused on everything around me that the running itself kind of faded into the background. I know that I hit mini-walls between miles 6 & 7 and again between miles 9 & 10, but a few hits of sports beans and cups of water took care of it each time. Other than that, all I know is that I was running on autopilot and emotion.
And running fast, apparently. Despite the tears, the headwind, the slowing for high fives, thanks & cheers, a few wardrobe changes due to temperamental weather (jacket on, jacket off, hat on, hat off), and slight backtracking to retrieve a dropped packet of sportsbeans at mile 9, I finished the half-marathon in 1:43:31. A new PR for me.
Go figure. Go Boston.