I found this post in my Drafts box. I never quite got round to finishing it and then it wasnt quite the right time to post it, so here it is unfinished
Friday was a solemn day.
Runners made their way to Boylston Street.
With a few days until race day it was the runners from 2013 who came first, proudly displaying 2013 on the blue and yellow jackets. There was little noise as they sought out first the finish line and then both of the small memorials which marked the sites of the bombs. Fading strands of blue and yellow tied to a tree. A 2013 finishers medal tied to a piece of wire. Little bunches of flowers. The following day they were joined by a pair of running shoes. These were not formal grand gestures but very personal tokens placed by individuals.
The finish line of the Boston Marathon on Boylston Street is flanked by temporary grandstands. To make your way to the race Expo you need to walk through a passage behind them which is almost like walking through a church. The silence under the stands amplified the raw emotion on the street. Waves of emotion were causing me to swallow hard and was relieved to see I was not alone as I glanced to see tears streaming down Helen’s face.
Quietly we walked to the Forum restaurant where Helen had stood for 6 hours until just before the bomb exploded there last year.
We were back.
We had made a promise to come back to Boston to play a part in standing up for the small sweaty corner of humanity that is the running community, and now we were standing on Boylston Street.
We had lunch in the Forum and chatted to a couple seated next to us who were not runners. They had been in the Forum last year when the bomb exploded and blew the windows in. They had come back from Kansas City to be in the same place and intended to watch the race from the Forum.
Throughout Friday the runners returned and as they returned there were many tears on Boylston Street but there was a real sense or determination to return and put things right. It was important not just to the runners but to the city. People welcomed the runners back with a sense of relief almost as if they were worried they might not come. Not just the city as an institution but the ordinary people: the airport security guard who looked you up and down, saw the 2013 and nodded and winked. The taxi driver who was eager to tell us that we can’t let them win.
Outside the church by the finish line, volunteers were handing out Boston scarves. Hand-knitted in their thousands throughout the USA I received one made by Susan from the tiny town of Mt Desert in Maine.
Race day arrived, the yellow school buses headed for Hopkinton. As we arrived through the back streets of this most American town with its wooden houses and white picket fences, two old ladies, sat on a white painted porch, held up a banner saying “Welcome Back”. A little girl wrapped in her dressing gown, stood at the end of her driveway and waved a Stars and Stripes at the returning runners. It was only 7am.
Finally, high on emotion, a race was run. Crowds cheered as never before in a heady mix of support and defiance. Cheers, tears, kisses and fist pumps punctuated 26.2 miles of the very best in the human spirit. Boston was Strong, the runners came back. Those with unfinished business turned Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston and finished the race.
A few days later, and 4000 miles to the west, I was boarding the ferry to Alcatraz, proudly sporting my Boston Finsher’s shirt, when I was approached by an older lady who shook my hand and in a broad Boston drawl said “Thank You”