BOSTON —At the Boston Marathon finish line, “Everything is different. Everything about being a spectator, everything about running it. Everything feels different this year,” Randy Crookshank said.
His wife, Patti Crookshank, had just finished the Boston Marathon in three hours and 49 minutes. It’s not her best time, but it’s good. Patti is 52. This was her fourth marathon in Boston.
Patti Crookshank runs with the Boston Police Runner’s Club. She finished the race last year and her husband had just wrapped the aluminum blanket around her shoulders when they felt the first explosion behind them.
Many of the runners in the club are Boston Police officers. After the bombing last year: “A lot of guys ran a marathon, didn’t shower, got dressed and went to work to see what they could do. Duty called and there they go, right out the door,” Randy Crookshank said.
This year, the same group gathered before the marathon began to commemorate those who lost their lives.
A chaplain spoke: “He said that this is our race, and we are going to take it back. So we should run with joy and not be afraid,” Patti said, her voice trembling. “It was hard to see all the police officers tearing up. Big guys you know, and firefighters.”
For many, this year was a rerun, a chance to finish the journey that was so abruptly interrupted in 2013. For the Crookshanks the past year has been a marathon in and of itself. One of reflection, change and renewal.
For Patti Crookshank running in 2014 was a way to gain closure. For those of us who didn’t run, their spirit and commitment is writing over the memories from last year, making it an event filled with joy and pride, not just leftover pain and confusion.
I grew up at St. Paul and Beacon Street, in Brookline, Mass., about 20 feet from the 24 mile marker on the marathon route. Every year, my mother and I went down to watch and cheer. We went earlier in the morning as the years passed to beat the ever-growing crowd.
Riding through the city a year ago today the streets were deserted except for police barricades and military trucks blocking main roadways. The day before two bombs had brought the marathon to a screeching halt.
I took my bicycle to a press conference in Copley Square, the finish line of the Marathon. There was no other way to get there. The trains were not running. Cars were prohibited. The city was on lockdown as the search for the Tsarnaev brothers began.
Riding the same route today I was struck by a similar tensioned stillness. Much of the city has been closed again, this time as an added security measure.
I stopped and asked two officers on bikes the best way to finish line. They gave me the designated route. “Enjoy the day,” one said, waving.
Joy and Sadness
As I closed in on Copley Square the streets started to fill. Runners in logo-covered capes milled around, along with spectators, volunteers, and police, their bright green vests concealing full SWAT gear. The air vibrated with the conflicting feelings of joy and sadness.
“It seems like there is one officer for every spectator,” Randy Crookshank said.
Because of security concerns the usual finish line was a restricted access area. Most runners finished the race and then walked about four blocks to the family waiting area on the corner of Berkeley and Stewart streets. The atmosphere began to feel like a race again, a celebration, the triumph that it is.
Families carrying signs and wearing matching T-shirts hurried to meet their runners. Children ran around collecting free samples of snacks and yogurt and sports drinks.
Runners who had recently finished, stretched against a sunny wall. This was more like the marathon I knew.
The last year of my mother’s life I put a baseball hat on her head and pushed her in a wheelchair down to Beacon Street. She held a balloon and clapped as the runners poured down the hill. That was 2012. All the runners remember it: “That was the year it was so hot,” Patti Crookshank said.
The bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon will go down in history, the tragedy ever present in the minds of people all over the world. But for the runners, for the spectators, for everyone who felt the energy in the streets on Monday, this race will never be forgotten.
“Were there a million spectators? It felt like it, and all screaming for you,” Patti Crookshank said at the finish line. “This is the safest place in the world to be today,” Randy Crookshank added.