Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Boston's a special place for me, as most of the G:TB community knows. It's where my parents, grandparents, and generations of family members before them were born and raised.

I ran my first (and I thought most likely only) marathon last November. I don't really know why I decided to do it, but I very clearly recall the emotions that ran through my mind as I crossed the finish line. I thought about my late father and how proud he'd be of me, and tears of both joy and loss flowed freely. Also, probably, of exhaustion.

And so, with these things in mind, Monday's attacks on the Boston Marathon felt particularly personal to me. People shouldn't lose their limbs, or be moved to scream in terror, or be killed in any venue, let alone a celebration of human endurance and resolve. For that to happen in my family's home was one thing. For it to rob so many of their hard-won feelings of accomplishment, and their emotional release as they crossed the finish line in honor of their mother, or in memory of their best friend, or in triumph over their own personal limits struck me as inconceivably cowardly and cruel, and made me nothing so much as angry.

I remember feeling after 9/11 that things had irrevocably changed; that the scale and scope of the attacks on America represented a sea change in how we viewed the world as a people. My overwhelming emotion was a kind of numb, fearful sadness. I think that feeling was widely shared, and history will look back unkindly at the last decade, about how we let fear and sadness dictate a national response that reverberates forward.

Today, though, I remain resolutely furious at what happened in Boston. In the best tradition of that town, with its odd mix of Puritan stoicism and Irish/Italian temper, its elitist intellect and blue-collar pugnacity, my reaction remains a hearty, 'fuck you' to the sick bastards who did this. Kevin Cullen from the Boston Globe said on CNN, 'We take only three things seriously here: that's sports, politics, and revenge.' He spoke of a deep sadness followed by resoluteness, and about the communal middle finger Boston was lifting towards the perpetrator(s). I sense a similar reaction from most of you, and a heartening percentage of the people I see writing, tweeting, and talking about the attacks. If the 2013 Boston Marathon is remembered as the moment in time when we regained our footing as a people, that won't be a fair trade for the three dead and scores wounded, but it'll be a worthy memorial to them.

Monday's attacks had another connection with the generations of my family. Tom Meagher has been the finish line coordinator at the Boston Marathon for the last 17 years. He's also been a summer resident of Brewster Park in Brewster, MA for more than three decades. Park families, including mine, know him as 'Coach' - he's been responsible for organizing kids' activities at BPC for 30 years, coaching sports, coordinating parties, and serving annually as the emcee for the Park's 4th of July parade. He leads the assembled Parkies in the pledge of allegiance before the parade, and he makes it a habit of introducing any veterans in attendance. He's organized the annual Brew Run for more than 20 years, raising more than $200,000 for charity (it's perhaps the only race we'll ever get Clarence to run - it starts and ends at The Woodshed, my friend). I don't know many that are more civic-minded and patriotic.

The Boston Globe profiled Meagher two years ago. They asked what he does when the race ends, and he gave an answer sure to please this readership, saying, "When it’s all over, I find my way back to the Copley Hotel. I go to the hospitality suite, put my feet up, and have a cold beer."

Coach was at the finish line yesterday, just like he's been for the last 17 years. You can see him in the video below:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

He, like many others, ran towards the blast to help a fallen runner. He, like so many Bostonians, stood up against fear and terror. And he, like all of us, will cheer the runners that finish the 2014 Boston Marathon.


Marls said...

Cheers Robert nicely done.

Shlara said...

Nice work Rob.

I'm having a hard time with this one too--running marathons is one of my favorite things to do. Too many chronic injuries to run anymore, but I love the triumph of the finish line so much I always make a point to attend at least one every year to cheer people on--even if I don't know anyone in the race.

Just can't wrap my head around why someone does something like this

Dave said...

strange sad stupid target for terrorism. as marathon runner as well, i can certainly say this: if you are finishing a marathon, you've been through enough! can't imagine the rationale -- even a lunatic's rationale -- for this.

Squeaky said...

Since I have had close ties to the race now for the past 7 years as a volunteer (I run the info booths in the athlete's village every year) and as a member of the towns' marathon committee (we work hand in hand with DMSE and the BAA to make the start smooth for runners, residents and volunteers), the amount of rage I have is off the charts. And probably won't subside for a while.

The only thing that helps me is to try to channel that rage into something positive. I've only run one marathon, 13+ years ago, and countless halves but next year I might come out of 'retirement' and work and run it. So if I do, I expect some donations from all of you for whatever charity allows me to run for them. You all have been warned.

Now to lighten the mood. Some weird fun facts about the race.

Hopkinton town size: 14,000 people. Number of runners each year: 27,000.

Amount of time it takes to clean up and open the roads after 27,000 runners leave town for 3rd wave start of 10:40. Less than two hours.

Number of volunteers: 6,500
Number from Hopkinton: about 1,000

Number of pounds of discarded clothing picked up for Big Brothers, Big Sisters last year: 17,000 lbs

Over 50% of the runners every year are running Boston for the first time. This year it was closer to 65%.

And lastly, a little story I find amusing because I work the race.

Since 1988, Dave McGillivray, race director, starts running the marathon route around 3pm and usually finishes after dark. He has been the last officially clocked runner every year, except for two instances. This year and in 1995.

In 1995, Jack Fultz (1976 Boston Marathon winner) ran with Dave and let Dave 'beat' him. Not knowing they were on the clock, he became the only runner to ever officially win the race and also be the last official runner. So there is your stump the sports fanatic Boston Marathon trivia question.

Danimal said...

Hi Mark. (passing through Melbourne)

In the car reading tweet machine and listening to satellite radio following Boston story. Quite the shitshow. And the latest from CNN which could be true, could be false because well, it's cnn, reports that a Brookline hospital is being evacuated.

rob said...

more on coach today:

Squeaky said...

Rob, awesome link. Was at a benefit for the victims tonight in Framingham. Amazing turn out. About 15 microbreweries donated beer for a raffle and drinking. They raised over $3,000 as all purchases went to the One fund. Not bad for a dive bar that holds 200 people.

Danimal said...

my wife walked into my boy's bedroom last night after he had bathed...he and my 2 1/2 year old girl were buck naked putting gold bond powder on their privates with my girl saying, "look mommy, just like daddy!"

rob said...

mark, i assume you'll be picking up new orleans pelicans gear for the staff while you're in new orleans next week. thanks in advance for that.

rob said...

where my gheorghies at?

zman said...

Present and accounted for.

rob and many other writers have articulated their reactions to Patriot's Day better than I can. That won't stop me from noting that in my experience, people often decide to run a marathon during moments of emotional crisis. I know a lot of divorced people, and at least 75% of them ran a marathon or some form of triathlon during that process. Others run to raise money for a particular charity when a loved one is ill. For whatever reason, putting oneself through the grueling process of training for and running a marathon probably takes your mind off of the bad stuff going on in life and gives you another purpose to focus on if only for an hour or two a day. I have to imagine that finishing a marathon under those circumstances is remarkably cathartic. It seems like rob had just this experience. zsister-in-law swam through human sewage to complete the NYC triathlon this year and she was livid at the thought of "only" being able to complete two legs of the competition when they threatened to shut down the swim. I can't imagine how miserable the runners in Boston must be on many different levels.

KQ said...

Please tell me you've read the spectacular sorority email making the rounds. I think you may have your next G:TB PR Director (sorry, Shlara).

TR said...

I finished Mark Bowden's excellent "The Killing" on Sunday, the day before the attack. It highlighted the intelligence and counter-terrorist efforts involved in catching Bin Laden. Makes me feel more confident that the perpetrators will swiftly be brought to justice, and that this swift justice may be a deterrent going forward.

My father began running in his late 40's, after a minor heart attack and angioplasty procedure. He quickly escalated his efforts (thanks to his crazy second wife) and took on marathons in his 50's. He qualified for Boston because of a 3:02 marathon in Atlantic City in his 50's, and ran the Boston marathon 2-3 times. He told me that the moment he conquered Heartbreak Hill and knew he would survive it was his most rewarding moment as a marathoner. I'm sad for the folks who had their greatest moment as a recreational runner on that course besmirched by this attack.

Dave said...

holy cow. read kq's sorority letter. i would love to teach that thing in english class -- for precision of tone (unfortunately i can't). that is a wonderful letter, and totally reflects greek life and the reason parents spend 200,000 to send their kids to college. awesome!

Dave said...

hi gheorghies!

Danimal said...

Gheorghies. Hi. Wtf is going on? Mit police officer killed. Reporting from charleston sc.