For months, I thought about how it would feel to run the Boston Marathon. Now, two weeks after the tragedy that occurred at the finish line this year, it’s still hard for me to process. As I approached mile 25 with two of my friends that had joined me at BC, I heard the news through text messages and other runners. I was confused and terrified, worrying most about my parents who were waiting for me at the end. Phones wouldn’t work, nobody understood what had happened, and every part of me was exhausted.
I remember shaking and crying as a stranger kindly offered me her fleece jacket. My friends enveloped me in hugs and walked with me until we could find my parents, who were fortunately safe. Another stranger offered us extra marathon foil blankets when he saw us shivering. My phone was inundated with messages from friends across the country, and even a few across the world, making sure that we were all okay. It was scary and sad, but in retrospect, the love and pride I felt that day was unparalleled.
When I think back on that day, those moments of fear come to mind first. However, I think it’s important that we also remember what happened before the finish line. Before getting stopped one mile from the end, I experienced something that was truly amazing.
Between classes, work, and studying, I spent the past four months working towards a goal I never believed I could accomplish. After the 21-mile run with the rest of the Campus School Team, I began to believe that this lofty goal was actually possible. I was mostly nervous and doubtful, but part of me felt exhilarated and confident as soon as I remembered why I wanted to run in the first place.
I wanted to run because I had spent two years cheering on runners at Mile 21 where the excitement is palpable. I wanted to run to prove it to my childhood self, a young girl with asthma who believed she’d never be able to play sports or breathe like normal kids. I wanted to run to prove to my 21-year-old self that I have limitless inner strength.
Running with the Campus School gave me even more reasons to run. As I ironed a photograph of a little boy named Devon onto the back of my shirt, I felt more motivated than ever. I was doing this for a child who might not be able to run, or even walk. I was raising money for an incredible cause. At our Saturday night pasta dinner before the big day, I had to hold back tears when a Campus School mom spoke to us about the impact we were making in the lives of students just like her son. “You are angels,” she told us.
In the bottom corner of my shirt, I used a black sharpie to write out the initials JEC. John Cawthorne, former Associate Dean of the Lynch School, supported me from the very first day I arrived at Boston College and did the same for many of my close friends. I wanted to run in memory of John, the incredible man who gave me strength and believed in every student he knew.
So, on the morning of April 15th, nearly 250 runners from BC piled onto a bus heading to Athletes’ Village in Hopkinton. We sat and waited for hours until we could begin, but time seemed to pass quickly and I felt surprisingly calm. It just felt surreal. Finally, at 10:49, I began.
The support I saw every mile of the race was incredible. I had written my name on the front of my shirt and heard countless strangers cheering “Go Meg!” along the way. I gave high-fives to little kids and thanked people for the orange slices they held out. The girls at Wellesley College were hilarious, screaming with signs saying “Kiss Me, I’m ____!” Immediately, I understood why this part of the race has been dubbed “The Scream Tunnel.” Unexpectedly, I saw my elementary school gym teacher and the dad of a girl from my high school (seeing him in a Tabor Academy sweatshirt brought a huge smile to my sweaty face). I’ve never witnessed so much spirit.
My legs ached and my feet hurt, but the image of reaching the top of Heartbreak Hill and approaching Boston College kept me going. I caught a glimpse of Bapst Library and couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face for the next mile. I was soon joined by a group of my best friends who jumped in to support me. As soon as students saw me in my yellow Campus School shirt, they’d scream even louder and cheer for me to keep going. At that moment, I’ve never been so in love with the BC community. In a way, finally reaching BC felt like the finish line to me.
What happened this year was horrible and tragic. When I went back a week later to the memorial in Copley Plaza, I bit my lips to keep from tearing up in public. It was inspiring to see so much support for Boston and such a moving memorial for the victims of this attack. While I know that I’ll always think of this tragedy when I look back on that day, I feel that it’s important to remember how incredible the Boston Marathon is, too. It exemplifies the compassion and support that is so present in our community. It’s a testament to the amount of unbounded love that surrounds us, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.