What the Boston Marathon Means to Me

When I was eight years old, I ran my first race ever. It was just one mile long, up a hill one way and down the other. I had seen my brothers run this race countless times and was always jealous of the "participation" medals they received at the finish and the brightly colored race t-shirts they wore for weeks afterwards. And in 2005, it was finally my turn to show my family that I could speed up and down that hill just like my big older brothers.

At that age, I didn't realize how lucky I was to be running up Heartbreak Hill, a notoriously difficult part of the Boston Marathon racecourse. To me, this was something "normal"- something I took for granted as a young runner. It was an exciting opportunity for me to be able start my running career on a historic course that not many people have the pleasure of living just two miles away from.

Being surrounded by such a dynamic and energetic running community inspired me to run from a very young age. You can't help but feel motivated to run when you're watching tens of thousands of runners- from the elites to the charity groups- flying by on a sunny Monday afternoon. And to this day, I'm still running and cheering- hoping to make my way up Heartbreak Hill once again when I run the Marathon one day.

But the Boston Marathon is important for another reason. The race made headlines three years ago for the tragedy that shook this city. It's still difficult to look back on that day without feelings of anger, sadness, and grief.

On a personal level, the bombings and the aftermath were just that- personal. It was an attack on runners, and all of the hard work and happiness that went into their preparation for the race. It was an attack on Bostonians, and this celebration of the world coming together in our city. As both a runner and a Boston native, I find it unfathomable that someone would try to rob us of something which is so deeply important to the fabric of our community.

But at one point while watching today, that frustration, confusion, and heartache I was feeling dissipated- and was instead replaced with hope.

As I stood with my parents watching the noticeably tired runners trudge along that legendary uphill at mile 20, the crowd noise began to increase from a cheer to a roar. I looked around, trying to spot the runner they were applauding and thought to myself, Who are they cheering on? Someone famous? A football player? An army vet?

As the noise grew louder and louder, I saw her: a woman in pink shorts, climbing up the hill like the rest of the runners, just one leg at a time. But one of those legs was a prosthesis- a striking reminder of that devastating day in 2013. She conquered that hill with tremendous strength,  and with the support of every single person watching on in awe.

It was one of those moments where I felt like everyone was thinking the same thing, and knew that this was about more than just a race, but a triumph. A triumph of an individual who inspired us all. A triumph of a city that isn't afraid to keep running. A triumph of a community that has been running and cheering for over a century.

The tragedy we faced in 2013 didn't change us. In fact, it isn't what made us #BostonStrong. This city has always had that strength, and the Boston Marathon is just our way of showing it off to the world.

And so I know that one day I'll run the Marathon, too. I'll climb Heartbreak Hill past my parents and the swaths of onlookers, hoping to show the pride I have for my city's strength. I know it won't be easy, and it certainly won't be like that 1-miler I did back when I was eight, but I know that I'll make it happen. Because the Boston Marathon means far too much to me to ever miss out on it.

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