Boston Well Represented in London

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Guest blog by Stacy Brinegar

I’m not a runner. What a great way to start a post on a running site, right? But I’m not. I never have been and I never will be, it’s just not in me. But I married a runner and I live on the marathon route so running has crept into my life from an early age and it’s not going anywhere. While I won’t ever be lacing up the Mizunos for a relaxing 10-miler, I know just how much these last few days have meant to the running community.

Marathon Monday means many things to many people. For me, it means the start of spring, happier days, warmer weather, no more threats of snow, flowers blooming, people emerging from their winter caves, the Red Sox, school’s out, BBQs, parties, friends, beers, sports on all day, runners, wheelchair racers, pace cars, legendary athletes, TV coverage, and for 26.2 miles, the best the human mind and body can offer.

For others, it’s sweat, tears, blisters, Band-Aids, Gu, blankets that look like tin foil, little cups of water and crowds that won’t let you give up. It’s an addiction to some; pain means nothing as long as you finish. So when my cousin Carolynn told me she was running her sixth marathon in the historic city of London just a week after Boston (which she ran in 2012) I said I’d be there!

It was supposed to be such a fun and carefree trip (at least for me, for her there might be some chafing and cramping), but two days before we left, two evil radicals poisoned our day, killed our people, maimed our citizens and paralyzed a community. Flights were being grounded so I didn’t know if we could take off, and there was chatter about what this would mean for the London race. If we did get there, would there be a safe place for us to watch? Not to mention, did I want to go to a foreign country just days after a massive terrorist attack and leave my husband and two young boys at home? Would my husband want me to go? What if I went and never made it home? What if I made it home, but with injuries? What if I could never run after my boys, or hug them again? How do you decide when you are supposed to live your life without fear and when it’s time to be cautious and give up experiences to have a future?

In the end, I went. I was scared, but I did it. I got on that plane and sat in my cramped seat thinking that no cowardly act would keep me from experiencing life.

And I’m glad I did.

The world came together this weekend in London and it was amazing.

L-R: Katie, Carolynn, Stacy, all leaving little doubt as to where they’re from.

Every person we met who found out we were from Boston reacted the same way, with a mix of sadness, curiosity, pity, anger and an overall happiness that we were there. We fielded so many questions about the details, some of which we hardly knew, because of the time change and roaming/data charges we were fairly unplugged while we were there.

People were so supportive though, everyone kept telling us that London stood with Boston and that they were amazed at how strong our city was. Many people at the Expo said they were doing this for us, and would be writing Boston on their shirts, shorts, or even skin somewhere. Each runner had a black ribbon they wore throughout the race in honor of those that were killed or hurt. It was quite a site to see, watching almost 40,000 runners from every corner of the world show solidarity for their athletic brothers and sisters across the pond. I did feel a bit of irony though, to see so many British people honoring Boston for a tragedy that happened on the day we celebrated the first battle in the war that separated us from England…apparently no one else thought that.

Race day was full of excitement and, according to the London news, more than 700,000 people showed up to watch this race. Normal attendance is only about 5-600,000. They attributed this bump to the tragedies in Boston. Everyone wanted to support the runners and show the world of radical terrorists that we are not afraid. Plus, the weather helped…it was a really nice day and apparently spring in London is as frustrating as spring in New England.

My friend Katie and I were still in our hotel after Carolynn went to the starting line and we were able to watch the 30 second moment of silence before the start. It was quite emotional and many in the crowd were crying. Carolynn was too, she told us she couldn’t stop even though she told herself her tears were sucking up valuable hydration.

After that moment…Off they went. Running, laughing, smiling, waving; a collective middle finger to the world of terror.

Katie and I found a great spot at Mile 23 and watched them roll in. Every person we saw with Boston ANYTHING (shirts, shorts, Rondo jerseys, markered arms and legs, hats) got the full strength of our voices. I think we offended some Brits. They are very calm spectators. It’s a lot of polite clapping and some slightly louder “well done, chaps”. Not like us, we were screaming like it was the bottom of the ninth and Big Papi was up. A few people moved away from us. But, not before asking where we were from (really, guys? Did our screaming and Red Sox shirts and hats not give it away?) Once we answered, the understanding flooded their faces and we could see we were forgiven for acting so uncouth in public. We even got a few to join in. Quietly.

We were feeling great, loving the atmosphere, cheering for everyone, scanning the crowd for Carolynn and anyone with Boston ties…and then a balloon popped. About 10 feet from us. I almost went down. I don’t know the specifics for PTSD and don’t want to minimize it in any way but my mind said “bomb” and my heart almost stopped. Any other day and I would have probably not even heard that balloon but after the Boston events, my adrenaline kicked in. It’s true that a million thoughts can go through your head in one split second and they sure did.

Katie felt it too and as we looked at each other with terror in our eyes, I said “we’re OK”. We both breathed for a second and went back to looking for Carolynn and any other Boston supporters and runners. We had to put that out of our minds and keep cheering for all the people that were running.

I’m proud to say that Carolynn finished in 3:53, her fastest marathon by over 10 minutes. She said it was the atmosphere, the support from so many runners and spectators and knowing that she was running freely on her own two feet while many of her fellow Bostonians were struggling to survive in a hospital thousands of miles away. She did it for the families that had to say goodbye and for the thousands of first responders, cops, FBI, doctors, nurses, and regular people-turned life-savers who went above and beyond for our city and its people.

This was an emotional day for all but it was healing as well. We will get past this, we will run again. Or in my case, I will cheer again for those running Boston 2014. Boston Strong. Start running.

For more from the runner’s perspective, you can find a blog by Carolynn about her experience on the City Running Tours website.

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