My first year in Boston, someone needed to explain Patriots’ Day to me since it’s not a day celebrated in the midwest. It has multiple components.
1. Patriots’ Day celebrates the battle of Lexington and Concord which kicked off the Revolutionary War. Reenactments happen every year in Lexington and Concord but they’re so early in the morning that I’ve never made it to one.
2. It’s also the day of the Boston Marathon earning it the nickname “Marathon Monday”. Nearly the entire city gets the day off since getting around the city can be pretty tough that day.
3. There is always a Red Sox game. Beats me why you would add to the chaos of the marathon by throwing an afternoon baseball game in to the mix each year but there you go.
All this combined makes it the happiest and my favorite day in Boston.
2006 – My first Marathon Monday! It also happened to be Tax Day. I had a bit of a filing mix up and ending up finishing my taxes super late. In a wild panic, I found a post office that was open late and sprinted to it. It was Marathon Monday and the post office I was running to was in the Prudential. So I raced down Boylston, weaving through the crowds. I do not run. I was miserable. I burst into the post office gasping for air only to be told by the post office man that since Patriots’ Day is a Boston holiday, we get an extra day to file our taxes. I slumped out of the post office, defeated, sat on a bench and cried. But hey, I can now say that I ran a portion of the marathon.
2007 – We decided to volunteer for the Boston Marathon. We were in the family meet up area directing people. The theme of the day was “hypothermia prevention.” It was a very, very cold and rainy marathon.
2008 – Gorgeous spring day. I love this view of the marathon. Runners are just coming out of Kenmore and once they make this turn on to Boylston, the finish line is within sight. And what a beautiful sight that must be!
2009 – This was the year that I was an AmeriCorps VISTA at Boston Cares. John Hancock (one of the main sponsors of the marathon) provided the VISTAs with passes to the VIP area. We were in the bleachers right at the finish line.
2010 – Such pretty scenery along the Comm. Ave portion of the course. Each year, military folks start the race at the crack of dawn and walk the entire course in full gear with their packs and a flag. Makes me tear up every time I see them.
2011 – We had lunch in Kenmore and then wandered about the course later in the day. By this time the marathon had officially finished so we were able to walk on to Boylston.
2012 – This was a hot one. Spectators and runners alike stripped down and wore as little clothing as possible. They set up hoses to give the runners some relief.
2013 – This is the year that changed everything. Instead of our usual stroll along the last mile of the marathon route, we were invited to a marathon brunch at our friends’ place. They lived in Kenmore and their apartment overlooked the marathon route. We got to see the year’s winner and runner ups go by. It was incredibly exciting to view the marathon from above. Then, two brothers blinded by hatred and anger, changed this day and our lives forever. My favorite day in Boston quickly turned into one of fear and intense sadness. For days we all lived in a state of disbelief and extreme anxiety. Patriots’ Day hasn’t felt the same since but this was the year that I realized how much affection I feel for this city. For years, I insisted that I was a Chicagoan, not a Bostonian. But when Boston was attacked, it hit me that I love this city and that it is a part of me.
2014 – My Mr. got a new job that’s headquartered in California so he didn’t get the day off. It was my first Patriots’ Day by myself and it wasn’t as much fun. Also, last year’s event was very much on my mind. I wasn’t afraid of anything happening, I just wasn’t feeling as celebratory.
2015 – It was another cold and rainy marathon. I headed out pretty late in the afternoon to catch a bit of the marathon. I meant to only watch for a bit but I ended up staying until my hands had frozen to my umbrella. I couldn’t tear myself away. To me, the Boston Marathon is THE marathon and I may never see it again.
I am not an athletic person in any way. I’ve never really been interested in sports (except for the Bulls during the glory years) and exercise makes me angry. I have no desire to ever run a marathon. But there’s something about witnessing people achieving such an amazing goal that brings me to tears every time. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, ethnicities. Friends who trained together reaching for each others hands so that they can cross the finish line together. Children who jump the barrier to run the last bit of the course with their moms and dads. Strangers who give a pat on the shoulder and an encouraging word to a fellow runner who’s struggling. Runners who come from all over the world and proudly wave their nation’s flags as they finish the race. The hundreds of thousands of spectators, friends, family, strangers, who line the course and scream like maniacs for the runners. This year, I stood by two young guys who yelled themselves hoarse cheering for every single runner that passed by who had their names or any kind of identifier on themselves. It made my heart balloon up. If the spectators see someone who is limping and struggling to make their legs take just one more step, they cheer even louder, “You’re almost there! You can do it! You’re amazing! Keep going!” How can you not get choked up by such an outpouring of love and encouragement from strangers? It’s such an emotional event to witness and to be a part of something so big and so very Boston is something truly special. I’m not a big cheerer (going back to this too-shy-don’t-want-to-draw-attention-to-myself-thing) but I hope the runners can see the encouragement on my face and the overwhelming awe I feel when I watch them run.