Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to officially run the Boston Marathon, once said, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” Too many Bostonians, spectators, and runners left the course on April 15 with our faiths in human nature worn as the legs of those brave marathoners.
Exactly one year earlier, I made my first visit to Boston College on Admitted Eagle Day. I had convinced my father to stay for Patriots’ Day so we could watch the Boston Marathon, which had always been one of my favorite sporting events. Standing on Heartbreak Hill that morning, it wasn’t the opportunity to watch elite runners whom I had admired that made my college decision for me. It was the energy and spirit of the Boston College students lining Mile 21. I had never felt so alive; never did I feel such a sense of belonging. And I hadn’t even sent my deposit.
Once I arrived at BC in late August, it was the promise of Marathon Monday that got me through those first awkward weeks. There is a moment – when you’re lined up on Mile 21, when your friends and their fellow marathoners are passing, when you see the heart of each passing runner –when you realize the capability of the human spirit. There’s more to the marathon then the training and the race-day performance. I’ve never been more inspired than when I saw the simultaneous joy and pain on the sweaty faces of each runner, the months and years of training in each stride and swing of the arms. And until the news of the tragedy started flooding in, I considered my first Marathon Monday to be the best day of my life.
Trying to process the events of Monday was rough. The hearts of Boston College students, of marathoners, of Bostonians, of Americans were broken, much like John Kelley’s after Ellison Brown rallied for the win in the 1936 Boston Marathon. It’s difficult to see the city and sport I love deal with this tragedy. Tracking down friends who had run, answering messages from worried relatives and friends, and processing the emotional trauma of the day drained all of us. It was hard to look past the tragedy, to keep that faith in humanity.
Through all this loss and heartbreak, the true heroes emerged. Police officers and paramedics and marathon volunteers ran towards the injured instead of away. Marathoners ran straight through the finish line to hospitals to give blood. Bostonians welcomed the lost and the displaced into their own homes. Boston College students planned to honor all those affected in The Last 5. Others pledged to run next year’s Boston Marathon. Runs for Boston organized across the country honored everyone affected. Today, the Boston College Police Department and the Residential Life staff have worked tirelessly to assure our safety.
Reflecting on this week’s events, I’ve realized that my faith in human nature is still intact. It may have been exhausted, much like the muscles of the marathoners. Recovery promises the strengthening of our hearts. Seeing the hope in the Boston College community and the support of our fellow Bostonians and Americans, the recovery process is easier to begin. That Boston strength has never been more evident. Though I’ve only been at BC for a few months now, I’ve never been more proud to call Boston home.
This may not have been the first Marathon Monday I had imagined, but in the hearts of the marathoners and fellow Bostonians I found truth in Kathrine Switzer’s assertion. Watching the runners on Monday and seeing the resilience of Boston in the past week has made has made all the difference. I can’t even adequately express how inspired I am by this country and this city and this community here at Boston College. Our legs and our hearts will recover, though this healing process may take as many months and years as these marathoners spend training. But you’ll be hard-pressed to find more heart on a 26.2 mile stretch on April 21, 2014 for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.