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Cheering Them On

Dear Editor:

Let me tell you about Patriot's Day. Emerging from the long New England winter with the first tangible suggestions of spring pushing up from the ground, you might have gone on a bike ride, or a hike. Maybe you even went to some event in your town, or a neighboring town, on this Monday in April, when schools are closed and so are many businesses. That event probably had men dressed in colonial garb (tri-cornered hats, muskets at the ready) who reenacted the key Revolutionary War battles that the day commemorates. This is totally normal, if you're a Massachusetts kid like me.

Patriots' Day is also known as Marathon Monday because, while the Minutemen are busy fending off the British in Lexington and Concord, people are gathering in Hopkinton, the starting line for the Boston Marathon. The Marathon course wends its 26 miles through quiet suburbs to the finish line in the heart of the city. It goes through communities like Wellesley, where the College girls are notorious for doling out kisses to the runners who never seem to mind stopping long enough to snag a few. Between mile 20 and 21, near Boston College where students are camped out along the route, grilling and drinking and playing music and cheering on the runners, lies the infamous Heartbreak Hill. If you make it past Newton, the race floods its runners into Brookline, down Beacon Street, along the T tracks and eventually into Boston proper and onto Boylston Street, a busy street where crowds. Are. Tremendous.

On Marathon Monday, the Red Sox play at home. The game is unusually early, with a start time of 11 a.m. The game ends as marathoners are streaming toward the finish line. Sometimes Sox players have family members who are running, and they emerge from Fenway in time to join the rest of the city in cheering them on.

Patriots' Day - Marathon Monday - was a wild, delicious celebration. You couldn't predict the weather (some years freezing, some years in the 80s), but you could predict that people would be out all day, from mile 1 to mile 26, partying and laughing and handing out water to runners and cheering, cheering, cheering.

This is the great thing about the Marathon: no matter where you chose to watch, you could get in close and let them know you were there; you can lift the runners on their feet as they go. You can be that close. You can be that much a part of it. It doesn't matter if you don't know a soul who's running. You are feeling their struggle, sweat and cramping legs and you are helping them along. And it is finally spring and there is baseball and everyone is with you and it is Monday and it is a holiday, and it is a celebration. I love Boston, and I love it especially on Marathon Monday.

Monday afternoon, in my house two hours from Boston, where we have no television, I got an email from my brother. I don't need to tell you anything about what happened after that. Maybe this all blends into the background of terror for people who have never been in Boston for Patriots' Day, for Marathon Monday. Terror is becoming all-too-regular. But for me, there is something so specific about this day in Boston that has been indelibly altered that I feel an overwhelming personal grief.

Whatever comes, I want to hold tight to the memory of Marathon Monday. I want to cheer for the people who crossed the finish line and say, "You are stillawesome and amazing. You did it." I want to hug the people of Boston who cared for the runners who, turned away from the finish, were cold, thirsty, tired, and without a means of connecting with those people who waited for them at the end. I want to be there with the spectators along all 26 miles of that route, people who stood and cheered and lifted runners for hours, cheering them all on.

(Ed. Note: Reprinted with permission from a blog by Emily Speigelman, originally posted April 16, 2013)

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