If you are a runner, there is a consistent question, “Have you run the Boston Marathon?”
After Monday, I can enthusiastically say, “Yes!” This is the oldest and most famous marathon of them all.
Boston is as mentally challenging as it is physically grueling.
Lots of runners focus on “Heartbreak Hill” at mile 20. But there are plenty of other hills along this historic course. It runs through small towns and villages for 25 rural miles. Only the last mile runs through Boston itself.
Along the way, residents handed out food, shouted support and held signs. Some of their messages would stick in your mind for miles. One read, “We haven’t had a championship in 7 days. Thanks for doing this!” Another read, “This is the worst parade ever!” Someone dressed in a dinosaur costume held a sign that read, “Are you dead like me?”
Along the way, I ran into two friends. These were welcomed surprises! One ran the race for Boston Children’s Hospital. The other was a Boston TV reporter who used to work in Texas.
Somehow, through the hundreds of thousands of supporters along the way, I spotted my fiancé as well as one of my best friends. I had focused on this meeting for 17 miles and did not want to pass by without seeing them. They put their responsibilities on hold and traveled hundreds of miles for this moment.
The Boston Marathon is a parade of humanity of more than 30,000 elite runners from around the world. Along the course you could hear every language imaginable. Runners ran though a combination of rain, wind, sunshine and cold.
Most of those runners made it to the blue and yellow finish line in downtown Boston.
You think of a lot of things while you’re out on a 26.2-mile marathon course.
I thought about family, friends and the names of some of the people written on flags, signs and on the runners’ jerseys. They included the names of the victims killed in 2013 during the Boston Marathon Bombings. Runners ran for Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lu Lingzi as well as for MIT Police Officer Sean Collier who died during the search for the bombers.
Seeing these names reminded me of how the name of my friend, Rebekah Gregory, could have been among those names.
Rebekah and her son, Noah, were among those at the finish line when the bombs went off. Rebekah’s legs shielded Noah from serious physical injuries. But Noah suffered from PTSD. He got help and Rebekah realized other children suffering from PTSD might not have access to the same help.
She created Rebekah’s Angels to help www.rebekahsangels.org. Rebekah invited five supporters to run, and four of us crossed the finish line on Monday.
As I crossed the finish line on what was the sixth anniversary of the blasts that forever changed the historic 123-year-old race, I looked to the left to see the area marked off in memory of those lost and injured six years earlier.
It was an attack on America, on Boston and on a sport I love.
On this anniversary, with her prosthetic leg, Rebekah returned to mile 17, just as she started the day six years earlier. She also returned to the finish line to the exact spot where she stood when the bombs went off. She said it was not easy, but she rewrote her marathon experience.
After nearly 70 surgeries, she and all of those who support Rebekah’s Angels work to rewrite the future of children suffering from PTSD.
Thank you to the family and friends who contributed to https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/ryans-run-for-rebekahs-angels. You are helping make the change.