After the tragic bombing in 2013 we all went back to Boston knowing that it would be different, an additional 9,000 runners, security and media everywhere and emotions running even higher than usual.
In 2013, I was in a hotel a couple of blocks from the finish line when the bombs went off. I heard the blast and the sirens and I saw the empty streets, heavily armed police and lines of ambulances but this was my first trip back to the finish line.
When we arrived in Boston on Friday night we walked down Boylston and saw the memorials at the finish line and in front of the forum they are all simple and fitting.
The Old South Church near the finish line was giving scarves to runners there to do the Marathon. The scarves were presented individually. We were each told that the project started with the Old South Church and grew to include churches from all over the United States and other countries. Groups knit scarves: The only requirement for a scarf was that it be knit with yellow and blue and made with love and courage. There were over 7,000, each with a tag saying where it was from.
It was suggested that we post pictures with our scarves so I took mine to the expo and had my picture taken with the scarf and Dick Hoyt. Dick and Rick Hoyt have run Boston 31 times, 2013 was to be their last but they came back in 2014 to run it one more time.
I tracked down the Congregational Cumberland United Church of Christ in Cumberland, Maine that made my scarf, emailed them the picture and received a very nice reply from the minister .
After the 5K on Saturday there was a survivor’s mile. The survivors along with some of the medical personnel were invited to complete a one mile course through the Marathon finish line along with their friends and supporters. It was an impressive and emotional display.
On Sunday we started the day at the finish line herding the members of the group together to get a picture. We were surrounded by reporters from all over the world. I was interviewed by a TV crew from Portland Maine and another member of our group was interviewed by a German TV crew.
A church from Texas was giving out prayer bears and there was a constant crowd of people taking pictures of the memorial to the victims along with the traditional finish line photos.
From there we went to volunteer at the expo giving out race shirts. We had the last shift before the expo closed; as a result we had the unenviable task of telling people we were out of the shirt size they were looking for. We were all asked for our shirt sizes when we signed up for the race and having come from all over the world a few of them were understandable upset that we had nothing left in their size. Most were relatively calm about it. I was sympathetic but when they started to get really mad I pointed out that as a runner from Canada I had very little influence on the ordering habits of the BAA.
Working at the expo gave us an opportunity to speak with some BAA organizers. This was the fastest field of non-elite runners than had seen in years (the explanation for the shortage of smaller shirts was that faster runners are smaller runners?). The security measures in place for the race were unprecedented and not economically feasible in the long term. The plan was to make this the safest race ever and to come away from this year with an understanding of what they really need to do to make the race safe. We were also told that if not bringing bags back from Hopkinton worked this year they would never bring bags back again so if you plan to run next year start saving your old clothes now.
Oddly enough the thing that stood out the most for me was having total strangers on the street thank me you coming back. Volunteers were thanking the runners for running the race and helping them to claim their city back. I never even considered not coming back. I wanted to thank them for wanting us back.