After the past couple of weeks and my foot feeling somewhat normal again, I have renewed interest in running and a racing schedule. First up, naturally, will be the Boston Marathon, and it looks like this momentous year after the bombings will present a very different marathon than the staid old tradition-bound animal of past years. Security will be at its tightest in the city, and many of the towns along the route have voiced very real concerns over measures necessary to insure a safe event. They usually just rubber-stamp their okay and approval; wild-eyed excitement and enthusiasm is sure to follow.
There is a practicality to this, of course, but it also brings a certain sadness to a formerly joyous extravaganza that for years was simply a celebration and harbinger of the New England spring. In former years, the biggest question mark was the weather, not whether some deviant might shock us all with a copycat explosion somewhere along the way. Who knows but right now nine weeks away there is some terrorist fashioning a home made device to spark his own crazed version of 15 minutes of fame?
If anything, the horrific turn of events last year have brought a certain rallying cry to the region, uniting those who ran, those who watched, and those who heard Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’ angry rallying cry, “We won’t let them take away our turf! This is OUR f—ing city!”
News releases state that there will be 36,000 runners that day, very close to the all-time record 38,000 that turned out in historic 1996, the 100th anniversary of America’s oldest marathon. I remember that day so well. We were lined up so far away from the starting line (it seemed somewhat west of Worcester) that we couldn’t even hear the gun go off. I counted the minutes – 21 of them – before we actually began moving forward a little. This was the era of corrals, but not separate waves like they have today.
Way back in 1978, my first Boston, I made a little vow to myself that as long as I could time-qualify, I would continue to run sacred Boston. With a few misses for injuries and ultra race opportunities out West, I have been back nearly every year since, sort of genuflecting towards Johnny Kelley’s ghost as I pass by his statue at Cleveland Circle. This will be number 32.
However, I am an old man now, with the usual amenities. Store bought teeth, some hearing loss, hair mostly gone gray (or gone period!), and the stride certainly shortened. And I’ll admit it: I am not so crazy about all the crush of sheer humanity, the milling crowds, and once again sardining myself amongst the teeming bodies out at Hopkinton as we nervously find our way to the start.
And yet… And yet I qualified by a full 16 minutes despite their stricter standards. Does this not tell me that my time is not yet up? Well, doesn’t it? Father Time, sheath your scythe back in its scabbard. The reveille sounds. The clarion call seems to say “Old man, we want you out at Hopkinton Green at least this one last time, this historic year and race for the ages.”
Hmm… well, yeah. I guess maybe the thrill ain’t gone.