In the process of working through the emotions of April 15, 2013, I have talked about things that were challenging on that day, things that were happy on that day, things that have challenged me in the time since, and things that have been fun in the time since. I have been analytical. I have been emotional. And I have tried to find ways to tie my running to my life to my dealing with the grief.
I have not commented on some of the more amusing things that I saw during the race. The funny and enjoyable elements of the process should be celebrated just as much as anything else. And while I may wish to cherish and remember the funny things rather than letting them go like petals in the wind for the unhappy memories, I think that having everything “out there” will continue to help me move beyond.
So, here are a few interesting things along the way…
First, I have never seen so many porta-potties in one place. There was a huge line of porta-potties on the first field that runners crossed when arriving at the school at Hopkinton. There was another large line of porta-potties in the space where we waited by the video screen, the Hopkinton sign, and the announcer. And there was a parking lot full of porta-potties right at the starting line. Despite that, with 27,000 anxious runners (the biggest race I have ever been a part of), there were people who didn’t get to go enough before the race and guys in particular stopping to urinate at the side of the road with only minimal privacy at the first point where there was any opportunity to do so. The last part was predicted by one of the runners I know who had run the race before. Nothing really funny here. Just amazing.
The music we were exposed to along the way included the Rocky theme song (although much too early in the race to give much of a boost), an accordion player, country music, and a variety of other bands and music sometimes just from cars along the way.
There were some interestingly dressed runners. Given where I passed the two most interestingly dressed runners I passed, they must have run pretty good times to qualify. One guy was dressed in what appeared to be a zebra costume, albeit without a head. Not sure why anyone would choose to run so far in something so warm, but to each his own. I think it was more than half way through the race before I passed this guy. And he received a lot of cheers. That is one thing about marathon racing—having something notable on usually gets cheers. I have had my name in electric tape on my shirt several times. Apparently that is a great way to get cheers. Just having a Back on My Feet singlet or an interesting tattoo is not enough to get a lot of notice. Although I do think someone recognized it as St. Sebastian. Still, that may have just been my imagination however many miles in.
Another guy had what I can only describe as a hamburger tutu. Imagine, if you can, an adult male with an outfit that looked like pieces of felt arranged to look like a hamburger with lettuce and other fixings at his waist. I passed him when he had stopped and appeared to be adjusting what looked like a piece of lettuce. Again, I cannot say why someone who had run an excellent qualifying time would wear such an outfit, but it is not for me to judge. It was something memorable.
A couple other things I remember. One was a sign by a particular store along the road. We were still quite a distance from Boston proper. It said, “Shortcut this way” or something to that effect. I heard several other runners commenting that it may have been the point at which a runner had, in fact, previously left the course only to return later in the course—cheating. Years later, no one forgives cheaters. But it is amusing to see such a sign.
There was also a sign written for “quitters”. I forget at this point whether it was free ice cream or free beer. It was also moderately early in the race. I recall that it was on the left hand side of the road (as opposed to the shortcut sign that was on the right hand side of the road) in front of what I believe was a car dealership, although that is a less distinct memory.
The one sign that came closest to making me laugh out loud was a sign mentioning Paul Ryan. Putting all political arguments from 2012 aside, he did make a comment about having run a very fast marathon that was not backed up by the data that anyone could find. Yes, every politician probably tells at least a little white lie at some point. This, however, was a poor choice of a time to tell a little white lie as there is readily available data on the web on nearly every marathon that is run each year. The sign that I remember said “Paul Ryan’s Finish Line”. It was right around mile 20 also on the right hand side of the road. Probably not a bad estimate of how far away the finish line would have had to be based on the pace that was suggested by the time that could be documented.
I actually respect Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney. They made a valiant effort in the presidential election and offered some interesting ideas in contrast to the President. It just struck me as humorous that someone would actually make a sign to recall the unfortunate comment. And perhaps I may not have found it so amusing if I had not been running for almost 2½ hours at that point.
How does this all come back to the events of April 15 other than as a memory of the day? Well, when talking about the Presidential election, no matter what anyone reading this thinks of the result (and I know I have friends on all parts of the political spectrum), the great thing about our country is that we do have non-violent transitions of power. We have a systematic way of presenting choices to the people and allowing the people to make a choice that they have to live with for better or for worse. The system is not always perfect but it is a great system. Any terror event tries to disrupt that. We can debate whether the response to lock down a city for a day showed that the terror “won” on that day or not. But when all is said and done the country will move on, we will continue to cherish our freedoms, and we will not let the attackers’ agenda win. Democracy is a great thing.