I have a long history with the Boston Marathon; my first in the early 70’s was a revelation to me. I was behind the wheel of the Fairbank’s owned WKOX news car. ‘KOX at the time was the only broadcast outlet allowed to have a vehicle on the course. There I was in the station’s Mustang with Bob Bruce and Bill Galvin, driving right behind the “Statie’s” motorcycles and the photographer’s truck, positioned just ahead of the lead runners from the start in Hopkinton all the way to the finish line on Boylston Street in Boston. Every town you pass through on the course has its own unique way of cheering the runners on, from the beer drinkers at the Happy Swallow in Framingham, the Wellesley girls cheering, the families along Heart Break Hill, the crowds in Kenmore Square and the final turn onto Boylston Street and the finish line…the smiles, the cheers, the encouragement for the runners, more cheers for everyday runners than for the elites who were right behind our news car.
The Marathon, almost 40 years ago offered no prize money, it was and still is run by the BAA, a lot has changed but the people along the course haven’t. I know people who have witnessed the marathon every Patriots Day of their lives. It’s always been much more than a road race. It’s a way of life, a part of life a celebration in the only state in the Union that still celebrates Patriot’s Day.
Later, I lived and worked in the part of Boston where the bombings took place yesterday, it hit me hard. I know those streets, walked them every day, I used to get my glasses and contacts at the store that the first bomb went off directly in front of. I worked in the Prudential Tower, just across the street from where the 2nd bomb detonated.
I read earlier today that Boston is a tough town, but “once you’re in, you’re in”, how true that is. I live in California now, but I’m a Boston guy and have been since my early 20’s. I’ve gone to see the Red Sox and the Marathon on the same day. I’ve sat in the VIP stands and watched the race’s finish. Jan and I have watched the runners on Comm Ave from our roof deck. We’ve walked through the smiling crowds to get a beer and a sandwich in the middle of a Patriot’s Day afternoon as the last runners chug down Boylston to the finish line.
The Marathon, until now has been a celebration of a 117 year old race, a city, its people and the tens of thousands of people from all over the country and the world who come to run in the “Boston” to cheer for the runners, fast and slow and to be embraced by the people of Boston and all the towns along the route. This has had an effect on me that I could never have predicted; one of my first thoughts yesterday was “good thing the fire fighters of Engine 33 are close at hand.” Jan and I thought of our friend Mary who manages a restaurant right around the corner from the blast. So many friends and neighbors, so close, including Mrs. Lee at King Lee cleaners a block away on Newbury, the guys at DeLuca’s market, so many, so close.
Boston is a tough town, but under the toughness is a big, damn heart. Boston is where our country began, where the first shots of the revolution were fired, where the tea was dumped, the city where the British fled from the guns on Dorchester Heights, the town where Ben Franklin swam in the Charles and learned to write and print. Tough town, tough people.
Go to Boston some time, walk the history on the Freedom Trail, sit on a bench on the Common and contemplate it and take a look at the people. They’ll get through this and next year, on Patriot’s Day there will be another Sox game and a world class marathon to celebrate. They are too tough and too big hearted not to.