I volunteered at the 25th mile hydration station for the second year in a row. It was awesome at first. I got my volunteers jacket, which was a favorable yellow to last year's stark orange:
The thrill of seeing the first wheelchair athletes appear over the hill by mile 25 was still incredible. Seeing the first female marathoner appear, so jacked, thirsty, exhausted, but with fight in her eyes, was so inspiring. Then steadily, the rest of the elites came by. The three top men were running in a pack, and we all spoke excitedly about how that was going to be a killer last mile as they ran past us toward the Citgo sign. Everything was thrilling. I couldn't believe these people looked so good after literally having run 25 miles!! I lost my voice in the first 30 minutes from shouting and cheering.
Two of my friends ran by (they were banditting it) and I was sooo proud of them!! Not only were they at a great pace, but they were smiling and had great energy. (I learned later that they kept a 8:40 pace. Damn.)Then, around 4pm, a man on a bike came by our water table and told us that they were shutting down the race because a bomb had gone off at the John Hancock building. Well, it went more like this:
This man had no credentials to the marathon, and was just a normal guy on a bike, so we just looked at each other and thought he was trolling us. He said that he was going ahead to inform the rest of the check-in stations, but that we should keep alert.
Never would I have thought that he was telling the truth. We rushed to call our friends back on campus who had WiFi to ask them to check the news for us and confirm the bomb. Not only was the bomb incident real, but two bombs had gone off at the finish line. We were shocked; we hadn't heard anything. Soon volunteers were coming by, reporting that 20 people had died. And that there were more bombs going off.* We didn't know what to believe. All the while, we still had to give away water to the marathoners passing by, cheering to them that there was only one mile left.
Our team leader called us together about 20 minutes later, and updated us on what the Marathon directors had decided to do. They were going to cut off the runners at Brookline and Kenmore to keep them away from the finish line. We would leave two water and Gatorade tables up to finish giving the current group of runners water, and pack up the rest and leave as soon as we could.
The runners still didn't know what had happened. There was no way they could know. And so they kept running, thinking about the finish line, and hanging their hearts on the Citgo sign. When they ran by, I hesitated to say "One more mile!" and instead cheered, "This is it! You got this! All in, Boston!"
For the group of runners who were stopped at Kenmore or Brookline, I am extremely sorry that the Marathon wasn't the way you imagined it would be this year. I can't imagine what it's like running the 25 miles, prepared to kick it in in the last mile and give it all you got, just to find out that you can't and they put a wall in front of you. It sucks (to say the least). But know that someone had it worse, and had to witness and experience some terrible things at the finish line.
I can't believe someone would ruin something as inspiring as the Boston Marathon, an event that has historically brought people together. Today, I saw a Japanese and a Brazilian man running side by side and when they saw the Citgo sign, the Brazilian man gave the Japanese man a thumbs up expression and a "We got this?" expression to which the equally exhausted Japanese man returned with an assertive nod. It was awesome, and such a great moment for brotherhood and humanity. These moments happen all the time on this magical day of grueling physical and emotional test and city (and worldwide) celebration. All of Boston is packed with people, brimming with excitement and voices hoarse from cheering for people they don't know. Seeing someone with a shirt from their hometown makes them feel like the runner is their long-lost best friend. People jump in to run by their friends for the final miles, and they allow random people like us to volunteer and stand inches away from the runners themselves. All of this is built off of trust in each other and the concept of coming together to celebrate the athletes' hard work. But because of one person or group's actions, the runner's dream has been tainted with a feeling of fear and unsettlement.
But even though the explosions occurred, Boston wasn't any slower in reaching out to help. Runners were stranded with nowhere to go, and locals brought out water and food to give to them. The temperature was falling, so many runners had borrowed jackets to cover themselves. MIT frats were winding down their Marathon Monday parties, but they offered their homes and leftovers to passersby. My group bumped into a marathoner who was trying to locate her family, and we walked her over to Storrow Drive. There was a Google Doc online for people to offer up space in their homes for visitors who had no place to go because of the delayed flights and shut down public transportation. Google put together a PeopleFinder to help families locate their loved ones, since Boston basically had no cellular reception because of the overwhelming number of calls/texts trying to be made. The people in Boston are why I love Boston. They are passionate and so proud of the city they call home. Boston is a city, but it feels more like a small town sometimes.
I thought this essay did a good job at thought-processing.The Boston Marathon is still epic. It's still beloved by the world. The people who run it are still my heroes. Today will be a day we remember, but it doesn't affect the magic of the Boston Marathon and how it brings the city together. We are Boston, and we look out for one another through it all.
*Thankfully, these were rumors and not true after all. But the current information is still tragic: there are reportedly two deaths and at least 64 injured, some being amputee injuries.
EDIT: and this article!
EDIT^2: The last update is that there were three deaths and at least 260 people with injuries.