We loaded into the back of that flatbed truck. I was told it would be fast. I was told to hold on tight. I was told it would be the ride of my life. Then that starting gun went off and like a bullet we took off through the streets of Hopkinton. Twenty six miles and a date with history ahead. It was my last marathon working for WBZ TV in 2004 before I moved west to Los Angeles, and I was given the honor of riding in one of the vehicles that led the marathoners. We took off in front of the racers with the wind blowing, and the sun shining, with physical perfection gliding behind us just feet away. My official mission was simply to report what I saw and to call when I saw anything interesting. My unofficial mission was to enjoy this total and final thrill, to lead the pack in the marathon that I watched my entire life, to button up my time in Boston with a final and fitting closing chapter to the city I called home.
Hopkinton to Boston is so much more than just a marathon. When you live in the footsteps of the American Revolution, history is all around you. You're in the land of Paul Revere's ride and the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The marathon takes place on Patriots' Day and winds a trail from the quaint suburbs to the bustling city ending in the heart of downtown. And on that April day, history was being made again. My own. I went to college in Boston. I met my future wife in Boston. I began my career in Boston. Now I was packing up and putting Boston in my rear view mirror.
The flatbed wove its way along the route -- Hopkinton and Framingham and Weston and Newton -- down Commonwealth Ave and by Boston College through Cleveland Circle and the reservoir and then along Beacon Street. We raced through Coolidge Corner and then past Fenway Park and the green monster and into Kenmore Square. There was that Citgo sign high above the city. Home stretch now. The crowds were getting bigger. The cheering was getting louder. We rounded the corner onto Boylston Street and the finish line was straight ahead. The flatbed accelerated past the finish line so they could put up the tape just in time for the leaders to cross. I got off that pickup truck right as the winners were announced and I felt like "I" had won the race. It was exhilarating. It was Boston. And even though I was moving away, I knew the city would always be home.
The marathon can make your dreams or break your spirit. When you come up Comm Ave in Newton, in the final miles, the hill is demanding. They nicknamed it Heartbreak Hill and many a runner has given up there and called it quits. It's been that way for 117 years. Today, all those years later, the heartbreak happened a few miles further up the road and the pain will hurt so much longer. I grieve for those families affected. I share the pain with my former coworkers. I'm sad for my city. But one day, runners will again return to the route. Boston and the marathon will rise again. In the birthplace of the American Revolution, where freedom first took root, I wouldn't expect anything else.
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