By: Kaitlyn Kacsuta, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter: @KRKacsuta)
When I arrived in Boston, I was not particularly excited for the Marathon. It has been my experience with marathon and ultra running that pre-race events are fairly low-key, and those who are most excited about the event are generally the runners. That is not the case with Boston.
From the time I landed in Logan Airport, I saw Boston Marathon race jackets everywhere I turned. Some wore the 2013 jacket; others wore jackets from previous years. There was an immediate sense of camaraderie with fellow Boston Qualifiers. Everyone I met shared their personal running history, number of Boston Marathons they had run, and tid-bits of advice for me as a first-timer.
I took the Green Line to a friend’s office, on Boylston St. The skeleton of the finish line was already up, and I realized that this was not just another race. At the Marathon expo, there were throngs of people and a buzz of excitement. That excitement carried on with everything that I did leading up to the Marathon.
On Saturday afternoon, I attended my first Red Sox game. Fenway Park was in Boston Marathon spirit, with American marathon legends throwing out the first pitch, the scoreboard welcoming all runners to Boston and wishing us good luck. During that game I decided that I was a Red Sox fan. Admittedly, the Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season since I was three-years-old and it was not very hard to change my loyalties. But I sang “Sweet Caroline” with Boston, danced to Dropkick Murphys, “Shipping Up to Boston,” and cheered as the Red Sox won in extras and played “Dirty Water” to signal victory.
On Marathon Monday, Patriot’s Day, Boston was up early to cheer. It is a long ¾ mile walk from the school in Hopkinton to the race start, but people lined the streets, partied and played music to watch us walk. Beginning with a long downhill, all I could see was people – masses of runners and spectators. And that sight never changed.
Spectators make that race special. I saw people dancing to “Party Rock,” on mini trampolines along a sidewalk, I heard the Wellesley College scream tunnel from nearly a half-mile away. And every new sight, every crowd and every cheer made me run better. It gave me a spark and a rush of adrenaline. The crowds of fans made my run the best race I had ever had; I have no doubts about that.
After I finished and received my medal, I met my friend inside her office. She works on Boyleston Street, in a building right next to the finish line. I was changing out of my race gear when I heard the boom. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but within a few seconds, my friend ran in to find me and told me we needed to leave. We exited the office and made sure that everyone was accounted for. Then we reconvened at an apartment in Cambridge to watch the news, contact friends and family.
Over the two weeks since the Marathon, I have seen, watched, and read about the love and support that Bostonians have shown for one another and for perfect strangers they had never met before. I saw runners come together to show solidarity. I have experienced the spirit of a city that will not quit, will not give in, and will not be deterred.
Now that I am back in Pittsburgh, I have decided to run in honor of all the victims of the Marathon tragedy. I will run a total of 180 miles over 26 days, with the hope that I can encourage people to donate to One Fund Boston. Thus far, One Fund Boston has raised well over $20 million for those most affected by the Marathon tragedy. Boston-based businesses and marathons across the country have also pledged millions to One Fund Boston. It is both wonderful and inspiration to see that outpouring of support from across the world.
In the midst of heartbreak, the compassion of a nation has shown through. While marathon security will undoubtedly change in the wake of Boston, the Boston Marathon will always be the pinnacle of running achievement. President Obama was absolutely right when he said, “And this time next year, on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever, and to cheer even louder, for the 118th Boston Marathon.” I’ll be there to run even harder, too. But until I get back to Boylston Street in 2014, I’ll run for Boston.