I will say this: I hope the only reason I wouldn’t be at the finish line of the Boston Marathon waiting to cheer the racers across is because I am running it myself. There’s nothing like spectating at this race, I never want to miss it. The field (both elite and amateur) is deep with talent, and it is inspiring and humbling to watch them at their art. Overheard at the curb: “There are so many runners faster than I am.” Indeed, we all get so wrapped up in besting ourselves that it’s easy to forget where we land exactly in the continuum of speed.
All my favorite elite athletes flopped to varying degrees. In the women’s race, Dire Tune was a DNF and Salina Kosgei, last year’s champion, came in third this year behind Teyba Erkesso and Tatyana Pushkareva (who reeled Erkesso in from a huge lead to finish just 3 seconds behind her. It was pretty exciting to watch, I ws rooting for Tatyana.). Again, in the men’s race last year’s winner Deriba Merga came in third, bested by Robert Kipromo Cheruiyot (the Younger) and Tekeste Kebede. Ryan Hall (looking haggard) came in fourth, two seconds (2!!) behind Merga (like last year, Hall regained on the leaders after falling off the pack in the middle miles), and followed by Meb in 5th.
But, other elites delivered an historic, memorable race, as we witnessed two records. Ernst Van Dyk (men’s wheelchair division) is the first athlete to win this race 9 times; and Robert the Younger smashed the course record (2:07:14) and completed the second-fastest marathon ever run in the United States (2:05:52). Thomas S. Grilk, the man who has been calling the race and greeting finishers from atop the finish line for nearly 30 years, said something along the lines of “it is rare that we get to stand in the presence of history like this” when announcing the awards ceremony for Van Dyk (who, naturally, was seated in his wheelchair). Whoops!
Then the crowds started to come, a sweating, grimacing tide of quick humanity. I think I caught these friends as they ran past: Robert, Allen, and Megan. But then I soon had to leave my spot at the sidelines to collect my luggage and get my train home, so I missed friends like Sarah, Sarah (who ran a double), Elyssa and Barb. (Folks, I hope you know that you were in my thoughts even though I abandoned my post.)
There are the runners I simply must cheer for, no questions asked. They are: folks wearing a Team Fox or Team in Training singlet; people with their names on their shirts; and the fast, teeny women who finish with the earliest men (Way to run it, lady!). Oh, and I also like the fit old guys, the ones in their 50’s hanging tough with the pups, silver-haired and flashing by with a wink (they know they’ve still got it). My favorite racers, though, are the ones who revel in their finish. Like the guy who spread his arms and airplaned it in. Or Cheruiyot himself, who blew a big kiss to the crowd as he was less than 100 yards out. Or the men and women who pump their arms, or look to the sky, or who put their chins down and battle it out with the one next to them to eek out a few extra seconds. And, I am slightly embarrassed to admit, whenever I see a couple cross the line holding hands, I get a lump in my throat.
Mark my words: I will race the Boston Marathon as a qualifying athlete. And when I do, I will blow kisses, I will propeller, I will smile, weep, glance at the heavens and think, If I can do this, then what else am I capable of?