At 5 a.m. Monday, I should be slipping quietly into a shirt, shorts and running shoes, taking an elevator 23 flights down, and stepping out onto Huntington Avenue in downtown Boston.
At 6:30 a.m. Monday, I should be arriving by shuttle in the rural New England town of Hopkinton, where – over the next few hours – 36,000 runners will assemble with two things weighing heavily on their minds: what happened at last year’s Boston Marathon and what they hope to accomplish at this year’s.
At 10 a.m. Monday, the starting gun will sound for the first of four waves of runners, including UNC alumnus Shalane Flanagan, 32, a Massachusetts native who took the 2013 bombings as a personal affront and would give anything to become the first American in 29 years to win the world’s most revered footrace.
Then at 10:25 a.m. Monday, my wave is scheduled to start heading down Hopkinton’s Main Street, toward Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, Boston, toward more than three hours of legwork and labored breathing, and toward a fair amount of reflection.
As I run, I’ll think about the strength of families, and people like Carol Downing, 58, who is aiming Monday to finish her first Boston Marathon after being stopped a mile short of the finish last year because of the bombs that maimed one of her daughters (Nicole Gross of Charlotte) and took the leg of her other (Erika Brannock of Towson, Md.).
As I run, I’ll think about heroism and heroes, like Carlos Arredondo, from the now-famous photograph in which he’s seen helping to rush a horrifically injured victim to an ambulance; when I ran into him inside Prudential Center on Friday afternoon, he was surrounded by admirers treating him like Brad Pitt, clamoring to get him to pose with them for photographs.
As I run, I’ll think of the kindness of people like Donna Hicks, the woman who knitted the blue and yellow scarf that was draped around my neck Friday night at Old South Church on Boylston Street, as part of a gesture of “remembrance and hope” that drew thousands of scarves made in the Boston Athletic Association’s colors to this house of worship for these athletes on this weekend.
As I run, I’ll think about the smallness of the world and the spirit of this city – about the Davidson College alumnus who served us steaks Saturday night at a restaurant on Washington Street, whose face brightened when she learned my friends and I would be running and who promised to try to remember ours so she could scream words of encouragement at us as we passed her street in the final mile.
And as I run, I’ll think about my own personal journey: Growing up less than two hours from Boston as a lifelong Red Sox fan, working so hard to qualify for this race in February 2013 as a runner, flying to Boston eight hours after the explosions as a journalist, and raising more than $13,000 for The One Fund Boston in 2014 as a human being who felt compelled to help.
But most of all, as I run, I’ll think about what I suspect most people in Boston have thought at one point or another in recent days: While what happened here April 15, 2013, is a reminder of the evil in this world, the way we’ve seen people react proves that – in the long run – good has much more stamina.