Year after year, we revere the third Monday in April, arguably the most sacred and meaningful day for the marathoning community: Boston Marathon Race Day. For over 100 years, Marathon Monday, Patriots Day, has been a day of celebration in the commonwealth—and for those lucky schoolkids and employees, a day off from school and work—but today, on the first-year race anniversary of an atrocious act of violence on our sport’s most hallowed ground, we can proclaim, with a conviction so deep and real that it’s palpable, that today is the most celebrated day in the running universe.
The thing about Marathon Monday, though, is that you don’t actually have to toe the line in Hopkinton, a sleepy little village where the Boston Marathon begins, to “get” just how special this day is for each of us. Of course, if you are one of the lucky few speedsters or fundraisers who has earned your spot in Boston, the day is special on an entirely different level, and yet, the day still holds incredible significance for each of us in the running community, regardless if we’re a 6 minute miler or a 16 minute miler.
After running 22 marathons, including Boston twice, and qualifying for Boston 10 times, since 2007, I can boil down my observations about Marathon Monday, and more generically, the running community, to this:
It’s about love.
It’s about chasing your unicorn—the unicorn being the symbol of the Boston Athletic Association, the image on the Boston Marathon medal, but also, more generally speaking, a symbol of perfection—regardless of what that unicorn is for you.
Maybe it’s a qualifying time that’ll get you to Boston.
Maybe it’s finally letting go of excuses and at long last, putting it all out there during a race, even though it’s quite likely that you’ll fail.
Hell, perhaps it’s running your first mile, uninterrupted, and finishing upright.
We all have unicorns that we’re chasing, and Marathon Monday in the commonwealth celebrates all of them, and the work we’re putting in, that collectively helps to make us better versions of ourselves.
I totally get how hippy-dippy, New Age, runner nonsense this sounds—and hey, I’ve lived in northern California since December; I can’t escape this stuff by now—but hear me out.
Marathon Monday is about love because without it, each of us wouldn’t be able to chase our unicorns day in and day out, nor would we be able to navigate the atrocities of last year’s attacks on our sport’s most holy grounds.
Marathon Monday is about love because it’s our love of the sport, our commitment to continuous self-improvement, that adds fuel to the fire each day that we begin our unicorn chase, in the hopes that just maybe, today we’ll approach our unicorn ever-so-slightly more than yesterday.
Marathon Monday is about love because love is what united our community following the attacks at last year’s Boston. Love rallied us together, connecting each of us, no matter our differences, in a way that precious few other things can.
In the subsequent weeks following the bombings on Boylston Street last year, runners from across the world united—folks who didn’t necessarily know each other, folks who proclaimed that it’d be a cold day in hell before they’d ever get to toe the line in Boston, or folks who, but for the grace of god, weren’t there in Boston that day, but should have been—to show our solidarity with our marathoning brothers and sisters, and their families, whose lives were forever altered on April 15, 2013.
Last year, TSFM, as well as many other races worldwide, joined these ranks of runner armies, showcasing the race’s commitment to helping our community, to augmenting the solidarity that was momentarily jeopardized in the attacks’ aftermath, and, most importantly, to demonstrate its love of our thousand-upon-thousand-person strong family of runners, a family so vastly different, and representing a swath so wide of paces, distances, and levels of expertise, that it’d be impossible to accurately portray.
In no other institution—work, school, worship, hobby, community—to which I have been fortunate to belong are the group’s members are so incredibly different from each other, and yet, ultimately, what unites us, what has united our running community from April 15, 2013, until today, the one-year race anniversary of the Boston Marathon, is love.
We run—we are capable of running—because we both love and are loved.
We love—we are capable of loving and of being loved—because running enables us.
Running brings out the best versions of ourselves, the versions that allow us to love, and be loved, in ways that few other things can in this world.
There’s a reason why Kathrine Switzer*, one of the first women to run the Boston Marathon (and who did so illegally, under the auspices of ‘K.V. Switzer,’ since women weren’t permitted to participate in the event in 1967), wrote, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
Marathon Monday, for many runners, then, is not necessarily about racing another 26.2 mile footrace as it is about earning a spot there in the first place and celebrating the culmination of months, if not years—let me repeat myself here, YEARS—of hard work and dreams realized.
Marathon Monday is not just about the runners toeing the line but also about the people, the supporters, our fan clubs, who also helped us earn a spot at the most celebrated marathon in the universe. They’re as big a part of the action of Marathon Monday as the runners.
Marathon Monday is a really big fuckin’ deal and a day that should make us pause and look at our running through a bigger, grander, and dreamier perspective.
On this very special day for our sport, as we’re all eagerly tracking our loved ones’ splits through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and ultimately, Boston, I encourage each and every one of us to remember to convey our sincerest gratitude toward the many people in our lives who enable us, who support us, in our unicorn chasing endeavors day in and day out.
Running is about love, and no other day—and indeed, no other race—showcases the love that is emblematic of our community, the love that has united us in the past year, than the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day in the commonwealth.
Because there are few things greater, purer, or more beautiful than the tenacity of the human spirit and our commitment to endure.