Thursday, April 10, 2014

Boylston Street

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston Street - the holy grail of the Boston Marathon. You know you've arrived.

I remember the thrill of arriving at Hereford Street. I was cold, tired and knew I had a whopping blood blister on my foot but I didn't care. I knew that in just a few minutes, we'd be crossing the finish line of the 113th Boston Marathon.

Here's a photo of Team McManus coming down Boylston Street on 4/20/2009:

Our personal trainer, Janine Hightower is sporting the blue Spaulding Rehab t shirt. She ran us in from Heartbreak Hill and then would not cross the finish line with us saying "This is all yours."

Last year at 2:50pm there was no right on Hereford, left on Boylston Street for thousands of Boston Marathon runners.

Boylston St. was a place that I wanted to avoid but on 5/24th, as I scrolled through Facebook, I saw that there was going to be a #onerun.

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility."

“Oh look they are doing a #onerun tomorrow,” Tom said.

“I am terrified to be a part of that,” I answered.

“Then we have to register,” Tom said.

And then we were off crossing the one mile to go marker in Kenmore Square where four years ago, Tom, our daughter Ruth Anne and I ran toward the finish line. I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon for those who couldn't and for those who were told they shouldn't run or would never be able to run again. Back then I was delivering a message of healing, hope and possibility. Yesterday, I was one with the survivors knowing they have a long road ahead for them but knowing that they, like me, would be able to go the distance.

We got to Hereford Street and I took a deep breath, as I knew we were going back to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and passing The Forum where the second bomb exploded. As we passed in front of the Mandarin, we stopped for a brief moment to give our thanks to the staff who ensured our safety. The two doormen who had been there on Marathon Monday while we watched the race before going upstairs to join the Spaulding Rehab party were there. How healing and wonderful to see them, express our gratitude and be back on a part of Boylston Street I was afraid to visit.

I told Tom I was ready to sprint to the finish line. I said a prayer as we ran by The Forum. I sobbed as the crowds were cheering and we were surrounded by runners with their bib numbers from Marathon Monday and thousands of people who had been touched by the tragic events of April 15. At the finish line we shared stories with one another. We hugged. We cried. We healed.

On the 11 month anniversary of the bombings, Tom and I returned to Boylston Street. We had lunch at the Mandarin.

We took a photo of the finish line and said we will come back before the marathon to take a photo of the freshly painted finish line.

Today I am going back to Boylston Street. I am going to the Boston Marathon Memorial Exhibit at the Boston Public Library. Tom and I are going to meet for dinner at Stephanie's on Newbury Street. We met the operations manager at the Marathon Sports Cambridge 5 Miler/3 Mile City Walk. He was four feet away from the first bomb and carried his girlfriend to his car parked behind Stephanie's and brought her to the hospital. They were able to save her leg.

On Saturday, Sports Illustrated has invited Bostonians to come out for a photo shoot to demonstrate the true meaning of Boston Strong.

"Boston Strong is a story about people, ordinary people doing extraordinary things, ordinary people doing ordinary things. SI's creative director, Chris Hercik, believed the best way to tell this story a year later was to bring all those people, or as many as possible, into a single photo at the finish line. If you look at last year's cover photo, you see all that empty space all the way down Boylston Street filled by smoke and that backdrop of chaos and destruction. This year's photo fills those spaces with the Bostonians who wrote the Boston Strong story."

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