I went to the Boston Marathon for the first time when I was 10 years old. I remember getting there early with my mom and sisters to stake out a good spot on Boylston Street to wait for my Dad, who was running the race.
We’d be waiting for him long after the elite runners had zoomed by. As each minute passed, a feeling of nervous anticipation grew in my stomach. Where’s Dad? How badly was he hurting? It wasn’t a question of if, just how bad.
Anyone who’s ever run the race knows that the Boston Marathon course is unforgiving. And it usually took the measure of my Dad in the form of debilitating leg cramps. Every minute we waited for him, scanning the sea of runners, seemed like an hour. Finally, through the masses, he would appear. Dad was OK. And so were we.
The only better feeling would come several minutes later when we made our way through the crowds on Boylston Street for our post-race reunion. We’d climb the steps of the New England Life Hall Building and wrap our arms around his beaten-down body. I remember smelling the salt and sweat through the Mylar blanket that they wrap around marathon runners after they finish. I remember feeling happy that Dad had finished. I was even happier that he was safe.
Yesterday, an 8-year-old boy named Martin Richard from Dorchester, Mass., went to watch the marathon with his family. They wouldn’t go home together. Martin was one of three people killed in the heinous bombings near the finish line. Martin’s mother and sister were among those who were severely injured. Their family won’t get to have the same kind of reunion that mine did years earlier. It’s that thought more than any other that makes me so incredibly sad.
For anyone who grew up in the Boston area, the marathon is special. If you haven’t run it, you know somebody who has. It takes place every year on the same day — Patriots Day. It’s the oldest and most prestigious race in the world … and it belongs to us.
On Marathon Monday, all of Boston is one big family. Our race. Our city. Yesterday, our race and our city were violated in the most despicable way possible.
Two years ago, my family staked out a spot on Boylston Street to wait for me, as I ran my first Boston Marathon. My father, mother and future wife were standing not far from where the second of yesterday’s explosions occurred.
As I ran those final few hundred yards, I took it all in. My legs were on empty, but my heart was full. As the finish line got closer, I started looking through the crowd for my loved ones. Once I saw them, any pain I was feeling seemed to disappear.
Tragically, the same cannot be said for many of the people who were at the Boston Marathon yesterday. In an instant, a day of joy became a day of sorrow. An 8-year-old boy named Martin Richard went to watch the marathon and he’ll never be reunited with his family.
It’s that thought more than any other that makes me so incredibly sad. (Justin White is a on-air talent for FOX Sports Detroit and an avid runner.)