As I write, it is a few days out before Boston gathers again to run. With this year, there is an even deeper meaning to the finish line because it is the first “After Boston Strong” Boston Marathon. The airwaves and the internet are are rightfully filled with great messages like this:
Watching this video led me to reflect on the races that came before and all of the “Boston Strong” seeds that have been sown for more than 117 consecutive years. These races held tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of stories regarding pain, inspiration, strength and perseverance over many, many years.
I listened intently today to WNPR and heard from those emotionally scarred by last year’s events, they discussed how “Boston Strong” made them feel inadequate for being less than that.
There are also many uplifting personal treasures cherished by participants. And when I say participants, I do not merely suggest runners in the race. Many marathon fans will become animated when they recount just how the right words of encouragement or the perfectly timed orange slice, turned a tired, walking runner into a jogging, inspired determined soul. “Do it for (fill in the blank)!!!” echoing the Sharpie scrawled rallying cry you hastily applied onto your t-shirt at the start in Hopkinton, means something very different at Mile 23 in Brookline.
As a fortunate participant in ten “Before Boston Strong” races, I have many of those treasured moments, but one stands out singularly as I look back.
In 2010, I was fortunate enough to run as an Achilles volunteer,serving as a guide to a blind runner named Julius from New York. My job was simple – stay tethered to Julius at the arm and talk to him about the immediate road ahead for 26.2 miles…
“Slight hill up ahead…Pothole on the left…Water 100 yards…Use your arms Julius and BREATHE…”
I had four teammates from all over the country and Canada who ran two behind us and two in front of us, all with “GUIDE” bibs that served as an amazing phalanx that kept us safe. We wove our way through the heart of Boston, making great time, until Juluis started to falter after Heartbreak Hill and those huge tiny hills in Brookline.
As we were approaching the last of those monstrous eight foot inclines, Julius was gassed. Just as his stride was starting to waver, a loafered (no socks), whale belted, green corduroy clad, pink sweater wrapped, young spoon-fed preppy frat boy, saw us coming. He was carrying an old school boom-box and I literally watched the light bulb go on over his head when he saw a critical moment in our mission playing out in front of him. He immediately found “The Theme from Rocky” on his boom-box, cranked it to 11 (for you Spinal Tap Fans…) and proceeded to run with us and a freshly inspired Julius – who was now striding fro the remaining 2 miles or so of the race. He followed with Rocky, the “Eye of the Tiger” and brought us home with “Chariots of Fire.”
Julius did not break his stride and asked arguably the greatest question during a marathon, about a mile after the gallant prepster joined our team: “Is this guy riding a bike?”
Needless to say, my tears at the finish line were filled with a mixture of joy and laughter. I will personally cherish that day forever for obvious reasons – it should come as no surprise that it is easier to see what really matters after you run a marathon with a blind guy – but now this marathon has taken on yet another meaningful layer. There has not been doubt since the British misjudged, but Boston has always been, and always will be, strong.
Bryant McBride, CEO and CoFounder of Burst
(See Full Bio Here)