Here are three universally understood events: a marathon, a baseball game, a holiday. But non-New Englanders could probably use some educating on the annual phenomenon known as Marathon Monday.
I wrote those two sentences on Sunday night when I was preparing a Boston Marathon blog. Sadly that last sentence could now read “But non-New Englanders just got educated on the annual phenomenon known as Marathon Monday…”
Imagine an entire city throwing a gigantic block party that doubles as your own secret little holiday that no one else in the world gets to enjoy. The weather’s almost always great, bars open by 7am, the Red Sox game starts at 11am, and we all show our blind love of camaraderie and sporting events by rooting for thousands of strangers to run faster. Call it a cosmic peace offering for Bostonians having to deal with the yearly misery known as Winter. It’s a day that promotes so much optimism: “The weather’s turning…finally Spring is here!” “The Red Sox are 8-4…this is their year!” “If these 23,000 people can run a marathon, why can’t I?…screw it, I’m getting in shape and running it next year!”
As with most people who grew up in Massachusetts, I have plenty of Marathon Monday memories. Here’s the simplest way I can describe my personal Boston Marathon history:
- Childhood: Went to a family friend’s BBQ ever year in the suburbs to watch the runners go by. Back then us kids probably just viewed it as another day to run around and play outside with our friends, with the bonus of getting to hand cups of water to these seemingly-important athletes (something that the public’s not allowed to do anymore, probably partially because of me and my brilliant idea as a kid to put pebbles in the cups of water for the runners).
- Advanced Childhood (aka College Years): Typically cracked my first beer at about 7:30am at my apartment, walked down to Kenmore Square while discreetly drinking beer out of a 7/11 Big Gulp cup, went to a house party (the years before I turned 21) or a bar (once I was of legal age), and then stood on the sidewalk screaming for people I’ve never met before to keep running.
- Adulthood Part 1: Spent my second Marathon Monday in California trying to replicate the festivities as best as possible. Got to my brother’s apartment at 7am, cracked a beer immediately, started watching the Red Sox game at 8am, and then went out on his front porch and cheered for runners going by his apartment…extremely confused runners who were out for a San Francisco morning jog. It wasn’t as good as the really thing, but probably the best Marathon Monday celebration in all of California.
- Adulthood Part 2: Ran the marathon in 2011, finished in 4 hours and 46 minutes, had an incredibly supportive group of family members and friends cheering me on from those same sidewalks I frequented during my college years.
Each of those versions of me deserved a carefree, relaxing and happy day. The eight-year-old Ross should be allowed to fill cups with rocks until his heart’s content; the 20-year-old Ross should have only one concern on his mind: not getting arrested; and the 28-year-old Ross should be smiling as he approaches the home stretch of a huge accomplishment, regardless of the size of the blisters on his feet.
I feel terribly for all the people who were trying to do these same mostly-innocent things in Boston today and now have a horror show to remember instead of the good times that Patriots Day promises. The little kid who was just getting the hang of yelling out the correct cheers for the runners only to be pulled away from the course by parents who feared more explosions were coming. The college student who went from the euphoric haze of partying hard on a Monday afternoon to the sobering reality of a day gone terribly wrong just a couple miles away. The first-time marathoner who didn’t get to run down Boylston Street, the proverbial exclamation point to the world’s most famous marathon. (Needless to say I feel the worst for the people who were either directly injured or had loved ones injured in the explosions.)
Everywhere you look around the web or on TV, there are people better than me at putting this stuff into words. So I’ll let them do their jobs. I’ll just leave you with a couple pictures. If these pictures distract even one person from the events of today and put a smile on his or her face, then I’ve done my job:
After all, if a dog wearing human clothes and a baby wearing sunglasses can’t cheer you up, what can?
Stay Strong, Boston.