Boston, Dear Boston

As a former Bostonian and a four-time Boston Marathoner, I am saddened deeply by today’s cowardly acts.  The perpetrator chose to attack one of America’s finest traditions, an event unifies people of all races, nationalities, and socio-economic backgrounds.

Just as I was celebrating the amazing world-record run by Joan Benoit Samuelson, I read about the explosions.  I couldn’t believe that something so horrific could happen at Boston.

This is a race that I love.  My Boston Marathons are some of my most proud accomplishments.  The race is part of who I am, and as such I am affected deeply by the senseless tragedy.

Eight months before my first Boston Marathon, I decided not to return to my graduate program at the University of Texas and instead took a job teaching at a small college in Boston.  On my very first night in town, sitting in my new apartment in Harvard Square, I pulled out the Yellow Pages (Hey, it was 1998!) and looked up “running.”  I found information for two different running clubs: the Boston Athletic Association and Cambridge Sports Union.  I called the numbers listed, found out when and where the clubs worked out, and put those dates into my calendar.   I knew that joining a running club was going to be essential to helping me transition into my new professional life in a city where I knew absolutely no one.

The following week, I went to a workout with the BAA and a workout with CSU.  I knew immediately that, despite the history and prestige of the BAA, I’d found my team with CSU.

Over the next four years, I spent countless hours with my CSU teammates.  I learned quickly that I am not well-suited to New England winters, but knowing that my teammates were expecting me to show up for the 7am run on Saturday morning in January kept me motivated.  I learned that I craved those long runs, and having the Boston Marathon as a goal and sure-sign-of-spring helped me cope with the winter.  Furthermore, the friends I made through CSU were my social circle; the workouts and races were the highlights of my social calendar.

My first Boston Marathon was the 1999 race.  It’s a day any runner dreams of, but my experience was made even more special because I got to run it with my dad.  He was the person who guided and encouraged my love of running, both as a high school cross country runner as well as when I decided to take up the sport again while in grad school.  It was only fitting to share my biggest running accomplishment with him.

That day was easily one of the Top Ten days of my life.  I will never forget making the turn onto Boylston Street and seeing the finish line ahead of us.  It had been a lousy race for me, and my dad was cracking jokes trying to keep my spirits up.  He even reminded me to smile for the camera as we crossed the finish (which, as you can see from the photo above, I couldn’t quite muster).

I went on to run the Boston Marathon in the following three years.  Even though I ran significantly faster in each of those races, none of them compete with the thrill of running with my dad.

For me, the Boston Marathon will always be about that day.

But it sickens and saddens me that others won’t get to have the awesome memory of Boston that I do.

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