I believe that the Good Lord gave us a finite number of heartbeats and I’m damned if I’m going to use up mine running up and down a street.
It’s Marathon Monday! I don’t know that I’d like this day so much if I hadn’t first experienced it at Wellesley. So, in honor of patriotism and the Bostonians who get up at dawn to reenact the battle of Lexington and the thousands and thousand of folks running today, I’m cheating and posting a piece of what I wrote years ago, after my very first Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts:
So there are a couple of big-name-all-kinds-of-crazy-fast-people-run-them-and-win-big-money marathons. I experienced my first yesterday–the INSANITY of the Boston marathon. This thing is so huge the entire state uses it as an excuse for a lamely-named holiday (“patriot’s day” …what, Paul Revere? the football team?) when every knows it’s really just Marathon Monday.
I had no idea it was as big as it is. People stake out spots at the finish line hours and hours in advance, but luckily, I only had to walk out my front door. The race goes along Rt. 135–really the only road I really need here. Home, the Wellesley campus, and Peet’s are all on this lovely stretch of asphalt so I had the choice of three familiar places from which to watch the race.
Natick? Our neighbors had BLEACHERS on their front lawns, and the grills fired up by 10am. Serious spectatorship. However. Becca and I are not middle aged, do not have children, and like beer that isn’t Budweiser. Natick isn’t exactly the best fit in the world.
Peet’s? Are you kidding? I spend so much time there I’ve got coffee coming out of my ears. Besides, all my coworkers would have given me dirty looks for being genius enough to request the day off.
Campus? Bingo. So Wellesley marks the halfway point in the race and the college itself provides a famous “scream tunnel.” It’s pretty much just that. The whole campus–all, or mostly, female, remember–lines the road and pretty much just screams for the runners. There are “Kiss me!” signs, which a surprising number of runners obey, an official wellesley scream tunnel t-shirt…this day is a BIG DEAL and the students take their responsibility and the tradition very, very seriously.
SO seriously, in fact, that at 10 in the morning there was a barbecue, beer garden and jumpy castle on one of the dorm lawns. It was one of those moments I think “wow, why didn’t I go here?!” (These moments are usually followed by a crazed discussion about world politics and the PATRIARCHY that make me say “thank all that is good and stress-free in the world, these people are crazy and I miss the hippies who argued abut the same stuff but in a much less intense way.”)
Anyway. For most of the race I wasn’t even IN the scream tunnel. Even a ways down the street you could feel vibrations in the air from all the lung power, police were holding back the crowd (and drunk girls) and the runners just kept coming.
There were the wheelchairs first, incredibly awesome, lots of cheers for them. The blind woman with a guide who made everyone cry. The father/son team, father pushing the son in his wheelchair, who have run the race together for years. The elite athletes: women with abs you could sharpen knives on, and men running at my sprint pace. The leaders crossed the halfway mark with one hour down. THAT’S 13 MILES IN ONE HOUR. Pete, remember that conversation about how you weren’t a “runner” anymore but a “jogger”? So what the hell are these people?! Fuckin’ fast is what.
The the hoards started coming, as did the real screaming. There were elvises, angel wings, and a lot of weird old sweaty men kissing random girls. A lot of old sweaty women kissing the police officers (doesn’t it break your stride a little?).
But mostly a lot of normal people just running. Lots of specially-made shirts–I’m running for my dad, Let’s Beat AIDS, This Is My 97th Marathon, even a We Love the Wellesley Screams! Lots of names written on arms or sharpied on jerseys. And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t awesome to yell “yeah Bill! You’ve got it!” to a random stranger, only to have him smile a little and keep going. Runners were holding their cell phones up the capture the noise, taking pictures, huge grins.
See, I watched my sister run the Portland marathon one year. It’s a great course all over the city and a couple of bridges and a lot of people come out to watch. I remember one guy in particular who was just cheering for any and every one–no shame, just yelling his heart out. But he was the only one. There was lots of clapping, but very little actually cheering going on unless you knew a runner. Transplant that single guy to Boston yesterday and multiply him by a city. For three solid hours a city cheered itself hoarse, for the crowd, for individual runners, for strangers I’ll never see, for the coach and trainer I did know. Later on, I stood with some of the rowers in the scream tunnel itself, cheering for the end of the race, for the people barely still running with half the race left to go. We high-fived them all, shouted their names, and the best part were the people who thanked us for being there. The “you’re awesome wellesley, thanks scream tunnel!” people. There was one guy in particular who just said “hey, thanks for stickin’ around!” Dude, you’re running a marathon. I’m just standing here. Anytime.