By Emily Kulkus
I’ve fallen in love with running three times in my life: after I finished my first 5K, cheering on a friend on the sidelines of an IRONMAN in South Africa and on a gloriously sunny Patriot’s Day in Boston, cheering on the Boston Marathon, many years ago.
I was in Boston visiting a college friend for a long weekend and somehow we’d forgotten it was Marathon Monday. We walked out of his apartment straight onto the race route. The weather was spectacular for spectating. For running? Not so much. Looking back it was probably too hot for the tens of thousands of athletes making their way east, but I didn’t notice. The city’s mood was intoxicating. We walked many blocks of the race route, which was lined with thousands of happy people, cheering on an endless stream of runners.
We were probably about 10 miles from the finish line so the strain of the race was starting to take its toll on some. I remember studying their faces and bodies – so many expressions, so many shapes and sizes. I wanted to know what they were thinking. I wanted to know what they were listening to. And mostly I wanted to know how THAT MANY people were willing to run 26 miles! It was mind-boggling and totally inspiring.
So when tragedy struck the Boston Marathon in 2013, I too, was heartbroken. My daughter was three months old at the time so I was sleep-deprived and hormonal. Watching the news, I sobbed. I knew the extraordinary experience of the Boston Marathon for everyone involved had been shattered.
Thankfully, amazingly, that fracture was only temporary. And while subsequent marathons have shown the true meaning behind #BostonStrong, Monday’s event – to me at least – really illustrated why and how the Boston Marathon will forever be like no other race in the world.
The stories from Monday are incredible. The weather was atrocious; and by all accounts it was way worse in person. Desi Linden was the first American woman to win Boston since 1985 and seven American women finished in the top 10. Second-place women’s finisher Sarah Sellers, a former college runner and nurse from Arizona, had everyone wondering who she was and where she came from. And men’s winner Yuki Kawauchi set a new record for the number of marathons completed in under 2:20. (It’s also his fourth marathon THIS year and he ran a “warm-up” half-marathon dressed as a panda.)
The Boston Marathon will forever be a great event and Monday was proof of that. Tens of thousands of runners plowed through freezing, driving rain to cross that blue and yellow finish line. Those are the folks I think of when I don’t feel like running or want to walk up my own heartbreak hill. I also think of that beautiful sunny Monday I got to spend in Boston, filling a lifelong tank of inspiration, mile after mile after mile. And while I probably won’t ever run the Boston Marathon, I carry my own #BostonStrong with me. Always.