Today is Patriots’ Day. Marathon Monday. The best day of the year!
I’ve been making the half-hour walk from my office to Natick Centre to watch the marathon every year since 1998 (except 2009, when I was hiking in Utah). It’s a wonderful workday diversion during a usually beautiful time of year in New England. The blue skies, new-green leaves, flowering trees, and warming temperatures all remind me that the last thing I typically want to be during spring is inside. And the marathon is a perfect excuse to get outside for a few hours.
I love watching all of the athletes, and I like showing up early to find an unobstructed spot and to be inspired by the push-rim wheelchair, handcycle, and mobility impaired athletes who start before the main field. By the time the elite athletes come through, I’ve remembered what I need to do to photograph runners and am really into the spirit of the day. Frequently I stick around to see someone I know run through before I feel the guilt of being away finally drag me back to the office.
One of the great things about the Boston Marathon is that it’s more than a sporting event. It’s one of the main social occasions of the year. It seems to have the same atmosphere as the great one-day cycling events, like Paris-Roubaix, that I love to watch on TV. It draws so many spectators, not just neighbors coming out of their homes along the course. And the route is totally lined from at least the 10th mile (where I watch it) all the way in to Copley Square.
Often I go with my coworkers, but for some reason I was by myself this year. So I found an open spot, between a family with small children and a couple of twenty-something young women. I was prepared to mind my own business for a couple hours and just immerse myself in what was happening on the course, but the two women were talking about running and asking each other questions that I knew the answer to and generally doing their best to crack me up with their banter. Eventually they asked an important question they couldn’t answer by themselves—when would the elite women and men go through?—and we casually got into a conversation. (It probably helped that I asked them whether they were students. I meant grad students, but they seemed to think that was just the nicest thing ever. I’m really not a flirt. Honest.)
The only “awkward” moment came while I was waiting for Team Type 1 runner Marcus Grimm, whom I gave a hearty cheer when he arrived around 11:30. As I looked at the runners streaming by to see if they were wearing a TT1 singlet or had a name that I could shout out for encouragement, I saw a familiar name: my name.
Me: “Hey, I bet that woman’s last name is ‘Mather.’ That’s mine, too!”
Nice woman, probably joking: “You should totally run with her for a while.”
Me: “I could say, ‘Hey there. I saw that you had my last name written on your bare midriff. So I thought I’d just jump in here and say hi and run with you.’”
Woman: “I guess that might be awkward.”
Sadly I have no pictures of anyone mentioned in this post—the lawyer, her friend getting an M.Ed., Marcus, the running Ms. Mather, or myself—but here are a bunch of photographs of the rest of the action.