Possessing a Boston Marathon medal earns you celebrity status in my hometown. I'm not talking Ben Affleck or Matt Damon cachet -- it's bigger than that. Having trained for, endured, and finished the Boston Marathon gets you major admiration throughout town.
When people find out I ran "the" marathon -- for to us, there is no other -- I usually get a high five, and the same questions:
"Was the starting line a zoo?"
My answer: it was orderly, anticipatory chaos.
"Did the Wellesley girls actually kiss runners?"
Yes -- I saw co-eds kissing sweaty runners with my own eyes.
"How was Heartbreak?" (Locals are on a first-name basis with the beast of a hill.)
Ask my calves. Six years later, they're still screaming at me.
"Was it amazing to run past BC?"
It was phenomenal. Wearing a hat from my alma mater earned me double the usual Boston College spirit, plus a couple of warm beers in red cups.
"Did the Children's Hospital patients inspire you along the route?"
You don't even know. To fundraise and run for the institution that cared for me from age three to twenty-two, and in honor of my patient partner and her parents -- who were in the fights of their lives at that time -- was my pleasure and honor. To see them at Mile Ten gave me the strength to keep running after I began unremittingly vomiting at mile 20.
"What was it like to turn the corner from Hereford to Boylston?"
Breathtaking. The sun shined bright and my stomach calmed. A group of friends spotted me and yelled, "Run, Kerry, Run," was written upon the shirt of my sister, who was running by my side. My aunt squealed while snapping my now favorite photo of the day, and I sprinted the homestretch with everything I had - for me, my family, my patient partner, and my city.
"Did you cry when you crossed the Finish Line?"
Yes, but first, I threw up again. Then I hugged my sister, who at times literally carried me along the last six miles of the route - all the while, telling me how proud my family was of my training and fundraising efforts, how lucky they were to have me healthy, and how blessed we all are to have Boston Children's Hospital in our backyard (ours was a full-circle experience).
As we neared the end, and I saw my parents, siblings and baby niece at the Finish Line, I heard her say, through tears, "You are steps away from being able to say, 'I ran the Boston Marathon!'"
Now you see why we're all heartbroken.
Because every Bostonian -- whether born here, attending college, or just passing through -- has a story like mine. Everyone has planned multiple cheering stops for a loved one, woken up early to catch a glimpse of the world-class frontrunners, or known someone who has run. Everyone has seen someone puke on Comm. Ave. and rally to finish the race, or looked for names on struggling runners' bibs to reassure them they had this, or spied the iconic Hoyt duo running at an impressive clip, or looked on in awe as the wheelchair participants did it all with their arms. Everyone has shared a tradition, a day, or even just a moment with the Boston Marathon -- our marathon -- and we all have personal connections.
On April 15, 2013, our fellow Americans felt that, so did many from around the globe. The support and acts of kindness flowed in when we needed them most. The Boston Marathon was and is a symbol of the community we experience, contribute to, and defend with every fiber of our beings. Bostonians did not stand alone and for a moment, a day, or even a lifetime, people who weren't born, raised or educated in our city, felt as much a Bostonian as any of us.
- When the bombs went off at the finish line, we all felt them.
- When the deaths of Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi and Martin Richard were confirmed, we all mourned them and cried for their families.
- When the 264 spectators were wounded, we all suffered, recovered and healed with them.
- When the city and its surrounding suburbs were on lock-down one week later, we all sat perfectly still, kept the lights low, and prayed for Watertown residents.
- When the perpetrators were captured, we felt solace, gratitude for law enforcement's protection, and pride for our town's fortitude.
On this Marathon Monday, we will feel it all, all over again -- chaos, awe, inspiration, pain, honor and bliss -- but none of us will feel it alone. We will all have friends screaming our names, aunts taking our photos, sisters bolstering our spirits, parents waiting for us at the Finish Line, and perfect strangers cheering us on.
On Marathon Monday, we are all Bostonians.