Runner's High is Felt by All at Boston Marathon

Everyone is familiar with the Boston Marathon, arguably one of the world's most famous races; but sadly, not everyone is lucky enough to experience or witness it. This year, I experienced my first Marathon Monday and was truly astounded by what this city can do.

As someone from Tampa, FL, I never had a connection to the marathon growing up, and like many people from outside of the Northeast, on April 15, 2013 I was devastated to hear of the bombings, but I did not feel the connection nor the effect that it had on the Boston community.

Before I came here, Boston Strong was a saying that I had heard many times before, but I never knew the true emotion of the phrase. Of course, I watched all the news channels, followed the events that came after the bombings, and witnessed the resilience of this great city, but it did not affect me in the same way that it has affected so many Northeastern natives.

This year, I finally got to experience the phenomenon that is Boston Strong, and it was a huge culture shock, in the best way possible. People from Boston are passionate in everything they do, especially when it comes to sports; so, when it comes to one of the world’s biggest marathons, one can only imagine the atmosphere, especially for the tail end of the race.

When I made it to the marathon route as the majority of runners were making their way past Mile 21, I screamed and cheered them on until my voice gave out. I reached out for high fives, and was many times denied, but that didn’t stop me from yelling and flailing.

This was unlike anything that I had ever seen in my life, this event and this day were both so foreign to me. But, that Monday, I learned so much about the city, it’s people, and the effect it has on others. And, ultimately, it has had a profound effect on me.

Dedication, inspiration, perseverance and validation are some of the biggest things that I have taken away from my first Boston Marathon.

Not only is the dedication of the athletes astounding, but so is the dedication of the people behind the fences cheering them on; from the students emerging at Mile 21 to congratulate runners as they beat heartbreak hill, to those who give so much to make sure that the marathon runs successfully and safely.

The weather this past Monday was obviously not ideal for Marathon Monday, but regardless, so many people came out to support the incredibly strong runners in their 26.2-mile feat. From family, to friends, to students, to random strangers, everyone broke out their rain jackets and braved the awful weather.

As I watched runners of all shapes and sizes, learned about the causes they supported and heard stories of incredible people taking part in this day, I was genuinely moved and inspired.

A 20-year-old Venezuelan man with muscular dystrophy walked for 20 hours through torrential downpours and storms to complete the marathon. He finished the race at 5am on Tuesday, but did not give up on himself. Hearing his story truly moved me, and the fact that he was so determined to accomplish his goal in this city, that inspired me even more.

Screenshot Courtesy of Peter Dunn / twitter

Screenshot courtesy of Peter Dunn / Twitter

I knew that Bostonians were tough, but I didn’t realize just how strong and tough they were until witnessing a beautiful and heart-wrenching moment on Boylston. After the Mile 21 events had concluded, I went back into my room and came across Rebekah Gregory’s story and learned what she overcame to cross that finish line.

Tears were literally pouring out of my eyes as I sat alone in my room watching the video of her falling across the finish line equally overcome by emotion. At that moment, I felt a true connection to this city, in addition to minor embarrassment.

I witnessed a man with one leg participating in the marathon on crutches; I witnessed true perseverance, heart and love, whether it was for the city or for the celebration of Patriot's day itself. All of these events further validated my decision to come to Boston College, and they have opened a special place in my heart for Beantown.

In the final hours of Marathon Monday, I texted my mother with a plan to run the marathon by my senior year (someone please hold me to that…). While this is a lofty goal, mostly because I hate running, it is one that I plan to fulfill as I was inspired by the greatness of the city and the people in it.

I am ready to truly experience what it is like to be Boston Strong.

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Katie McGirney