The Lo Down: Run Wicked Hard Salane!
I’m writing my weekly article a little earlier this week, in fact it’s Sunday evening, and it’s the eve of the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
This is a special race for so many reasons, but there is one local story you should know, win or lose; if you are a New Englander, root for the Red Sox, or hold a special place in your heart for the city of Boston, you need to know the name Shalane Flanagan.
My connection to Boston originates from growing up in Maine, and calling Boston home for six years.
Home to Harvard University, birthplace of Facebook, the college epicenter of the universe, championship city, Larry Legend, The Big Dig, and Teddy Baseball, Boston’s puritan history and geography breed a unique mix of culture, boring, bros and intellectuals that just seems to work. I can’t think of another American city that gets as much fame and is as large, but with the conservative feel of Boston.
Case in point, try to get a meal after 12:30 a.m., in a city the size of Boston. It shouldn't be a problem, right? Think again. Twenty-four-hour mass transit? Nev’ah heard of it (until now.)
As a child, I would take business trips with my parents to Boston, fall asleep instantly, and conveniently wake up minutes before crossing the Tobin bridge.
I would proclaim “We’re in the in the city now,” as my eyes fixated on the skyline. If you’re old enough to remember, the Tobin would quickly turn to construction lights and the sound of jack hammers, the sounds of the Big Dig. I was too young to know what the Big Dig was. Instead I just thought cities were just always under constant construction. And then last year, I saw a former community I use to live in be attacked.
The Boston Marathon bombing captured the nation’s attention, and a hundred-hour manhunt followed. Images of Boston under house arrest still remain poignant in my memory (anyone that had ever exited a Red Sox game probably had the same surreal feeling I had when seeing pictures online of Kenmore Square midday.)
One year removed, the tragic events of last year haven’t stopped over 36,000 entrants from participating in this year’s marathon.
The amount of participants was the second highest historically and approximately 9,000 more than usual. The marathon participants made their statement, this is our marathon.
Last year's events won’t stop an estimated 1 million spectators from viewing and cheering the runners as they make their way to the finish line. Last year only empowered one native Bostonian to train even harder, with a goal to be the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985.
Meet Shalane Flanagan.
Shalane grew up in Marblehead, MA. Running was in her bloodline; every family member including mom and dad were athletes; all were runners. I won’t repeat the details of the video piece, here it is again just in case. I’ll get to my point; there aren’t many things an amateur athlete like myself can relate to Shalane; except for an unquestionable appreciation for what the Boston Marathon means to its host city.
To understand the marathon fully you need to experience it in person. First it’s a Massachusetts holiday, most people are off of work. If the weather cooperates (and even when it doesn’t) there isn’t a better epitome of a perfect Boston day.
It’s a world event with runners from across the world and it's a race of greater prestige than its New York City counterpart. This is a cheering event with no team, and it makes it even better. Everyone is cheering in unison appreciating the ridiculous task that the entrants are about to embark on; 26.2 miles of constant running.
The stories are just as endearing as the event, from competition to retribution to dedication every runner runs for nearly a different reason (and some run just to run). Have you ever seen a Kenyan run. It's a feat of human achievement; you’ll never have an appreciation of how fast a human being can run, until you see these champion runners stride by you with a blink of an eye.
Their movements so elongated and smooth you don’t even realize how fast your head turns while tracking them across the course, and then they’re gone.
There are private parties, public parties, roof top viewing parties and that doesn’t even include the buzz in the city before and after the event; hotels, hostels, and couches are filled with runners, spectators, family and tourists just wanting to be part of the event.
The energy in the city the weekend before the marathon is palpable; Boylston street is closed for setup, television trucks, media coverage and all the tourist destinations are filled with an abnormal number of athletic looking people.
This year my marathon Monday will be a little different. Typically I’m daydrinking at some party just people watching and screaming at the runners, rooting as they run by. The poetic perfection of someone by the name of “Shalane Flanagan” winning the Boston Marathon is just too perfect not to want it to happen.
I’ve never actually been aware of competitors or hoped for anyone to take 1st place. But this year I know the name of the person I’ll be rooting for, and I’ll be screaming “Go Shalane! Run Wicked ha’hd!”
… An update 4/23, Monday afternoon
Rita Jeptoo, last year’s defending champion took 1st place while setting a course record and personal best of 2 hrs,18 mins, 57 secs. Shalane Flanagan finished 7th, less than 5 minutes behind she failed to achieve her goal of 1st but not without moments of success. At the halfway point, Shalane was in the lead while setting a record pace.
In a field where she shouldn’t be, a race typically dominated by the high elevation and seasoned runners of Kenya and Ethiopia, she should be proud of her performance. It’s not a perfect ending.
But just when the door on one good story closes, another opens; one month shy of 39, Meb Keflezighi was a professional American runner in his twilight, a runner that struggled to even find a shoe sponsor after losing his Nike sponsorship.
Meb became the first American male to win the Boston Marathon since 1982 and the oldest winner since the 1930s. Perhaps this is just foreshadowing, the prequel to Shalane Flanagan’s quest to win the Boston Marathon.
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