22 April 2014

Patriot Day, Marathon Monday, and some food for thought.

Today was the 118th running of the Boston Marathon (ok ok, it was yesterday, but just go with it, I've been working nights). This day has many memories for me. Good and bad, sweet and sour. My first memories of this day are awesome, my second and third marathon, in 2006 and 2007.

2006 was quite literally one of the best days of my life. My buddy Brian and I went the distance, from Hopkinton, to the finish line downtown, and we had a fantastic time! Our buddy Eric started out with us as well, but his knees wouldn't allow him to finish; he did, however, probably get further than anyone with his knees has any business going, a valiant effort. That day, I learned of Heartbreak Hill, and how it really isn't that big of a deal if you trained in Vermont. No, it isn't marathon blasphemy to say that, I just really didn't think it was that bad. Perhaps some other Boston finishers will chime in at some point, and we can get a second opinion. I will never know their names or recognize their faces, but I do have to say a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to the boys that handed us beer right before going up the Hill. I do have to say, drinking a nearly-full Solo cup of an unnamed beer whilst running up one of the most celebrated inclines in distance running was not on my bucket list before that day, but I sure am glad I was able to both add it and check it off on that April Monday. The pics on this post are from that day.

2007 was a different animal altogether. For starters, the weather was awful. I ended up getting a mild case of hypothermia while running (evidently, silkies are not always appropriate running attire in Boston in April. Oh well.). I also hadn't trained. Now when I say I hadn't, some of you may think I mean just didn't train a lot, or didn't take it seriously while doing so. What I mean, however, is that I hardly ran AT ALL. I wasn't in ROTC that year, so I wasn't at regular PT, I was mostly doing swim workouts, until Championships, and then I took some time off. Now we get to the kicker. As if the first two circumstances weren't enough, I found out a few days after the race that I had Mono, and had had it for some time. The prime factor therein being the whole, energy-draining, tonsil swelling part of the disease. Sounds like fun, right? Needless to say, although it wasn't a great time, or even a good one, I refused to stop, and I finished my third marathon.

Last year, Paul, one of my best friends from Norwich was running, and it seemed like forever until I heard that he was unharmed. The 117th running of the Boston Marathon, in the year 2013, will always be remembered best by those who emerged as heroes on that terrible day. I won't even try to list names, for fear that any of them would ever possibly read this and had been left off the list. Instead, I will just give a blanket Bravo Zulu to all of those deserving, no matter how small or large the contribution. I do not intend to spend any more time dwelling on the heinous acts of that day than that which has been already spent. We all know what happened, and those acts do nothing to positively impact this world. What I would must rather talk about is resiliency. Marathon runners have it in spades of course-anyone who says they don't hit a single wall in a 26.2 mile race is simply full of it, you just push through-but so to does the city of Boston. 

This brings me to the city itself. Boston, the city with the biggest little chip on its shoulder. (I think I just made that up, but if not, my apologies) You see, Boston is, and will always be, an underdog. It doesn't seem possible that this could be true all the time, but it is. I have never yet had the opportunity to live within its proximity, at least not closer than an hour and a half drive, but it is probably my favorite city in the world all the same. 

I came by my love of the city naturally, I think; it started with sports teams. My father is from Mass, so of course he grew up a fan of the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins, I was all to happy to follow suit. What I couldn't have possibly understood at the fledgling start of my fan-hood, was the immense gravitas that comes along with being a die-hard fan of these hometown heroes. I was hardly aware of the Larry Bird days in the Boston Garden, the Bosox were firmly entrenched in their curse for almost two decades of my life, the Patriots were never good, until one day Drew Bledsoe goes down and this mysterious coach in a hoodie starts playing a 6th round pick out of Michigan; nevermind the Bruins, who had  had some good years, but no real success since the iconic picture of Bobby Orr was taken. Of course, it has been a much more pleasant time to be a Boston fan since the Millennium, but being a fan, and the importance that comes with it, is not all about the record at the end of the season, or the amount of championships racked up. No, it isn't even about the amount of duck boat parades, even though those are pretty freakin' sweet! Rather, being a Boston fan is to carry that same chip on your shoulder that the city does, almost as if we are waiting for the other shoe to drop. We don't celebrate until victory is firmly within our grasp, simply because it has been wrested from that grasp far too many times, even when victory is all but assured. We also don't give up, ever. You can ask the 2004 Red Sox about that one. The underdog title is one you might think Boston has lost, what with all of the winning in recent years; but you'd be wrong. That underdog label was well-earned, and we don't like to give it up. I can tell you that I HATE when one of our teams is predicted to win the championship that year, no matter the sport or the competition. We thrive on proving you wrong. There are some players that just look right to me in a Boston uniform, and if we are lucky, we hold on to them for their whole careers. A Dustin Pedroia, who makes a lot less than he could elsewhere, embodies this town. Should the Red Sox have beaten the Yankees in 2004? Who knows? But they did. Should the Revolutionists have beaten the Bristish? Again, who knows? But it seems to have worked out pretty well for this country for the most part. You may see that as a stretch comparison, but I don't, both "teams" were up against an opponent that had every right to walk away with a victory, but didn't. The story of Boston is the story of America. Sure, both have their troubled pasts, but both are underdogs, even today.

Wait, hold, on, America? An underdog? Yes. Yes it is, and yes we are. As great a superpower as America is and was, we have always had significant faults. We aren't the biggest country in the world, we aren't the healthiest, the richest, the smartest, we don't make the best technology, but what we do with what we do have is what has allowed us to reach our current level. We will always have our faults and weaknesses, because, like a mythological demigod, or a modern day superhero, we do have our tragic flaws.

This is going to wrap things up for tonight, but hopefully I will be able to throw some more thoughts out here and see what sticks.


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