Bits and Bobs for the Week – April 21st

So, I decided to watch the marathon after all. It didn’t make sense not to, seeing how I live just down the street from the final part of it. I got lucky and snagged a spot against the fence just before the banner announcing runners were one kilometer from the finish line. It’s rather humbling to see so many people doing something you know you have no chance of ever achieving. Big respect to the man who looked about 80 years old but is probably healthier than I will ever be.

Highlights included:

  • The man running in a Celtic FC top. I hope somebody buys him a munchy box or two as soon as he gets back home. After running 26.2 miles, you’ve earned a few thousand calories of indulgence.
  • Some people write their names on their bibs or tops, and some people write them on their arms with a Sharpie. That way, the crowd can cheer you on. One true Masshole decided that instead of his name, he wanted to hear the crowd shouting YANKEES SUCK, so he wrote that on his skin.
  • A leg amputee did the course on forearm crutches. WHAT ARE YOUR WRISTS MADE OF AND WHERE CAN I GET SOME OF IT?
  • I got to chill out next to two whippets, who are perfect dogs because they’re just greyhounds in a more manageable size without all the hyperactivity of those tiny Italian greyhounds. Also, they look like marathon runners.

Anyway, without getting all mushy, it really was a beautiful day. The world came to Boston; the four winners were a South African, an American adopted from a Russian orphanage when she was 6, a Kenyan, and an American who emigrated from Eritrea as a child. Tatyana McFadden took home the women’s wheelchair title on her 25th birthday, and immediately handed her gold olive wreath to Carlos Arredondo, hero of last year’s disaster who has seen more than enough pain in his lifetime. McFadden’s story is fascinating – she was born with spina bifida and somehow survived her first three weeks of life with a gaping hole in her back before a surgeon could operate. Then, given up by her birth mother, she was left in a St. Petersburg orphanage that didn’t even have the money for a wheelchair, so she walked on her hands for her first six years. She was adopted by an American government commissioner for disabilities. She’s a summer and winter Paralympian – she won a skiing medal in Sochi, then won the London Marathon a month later, setting a record in the process. What a wonderful 25th birthday present for somebody who was lucky to have survived her first month considering she was so neglected by everybody around her. A few days ago, she met with the family of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old boy who died in the bombing. Martin’s sister Jane survived, but had her leg amputated. With a prosthesis, she is now getting involved in basketball, running, dance, and swimming. She has probably the greatest role model imaginable. 

Ernst Van Dyk, men’s wheelchair winner, just secured his 10th Boston title. Yes, tenth. Rita Jeptoo made history by being the first woman to win the foot race three times and breaking the record while she was at it. Considering she took a few years off to have a baby (which isn’t particularly easy to do when you’re built like a distance runner) it’s all the more impressive. And as for Meb Keflezighi, he’s now Boston’s fourth sports team even though he lives in California. I hadn’t heard of him until I saw all the ads on bus shelters that said GO MEB GO starting a few weeks ago, but he was the highest-placing American marathoner in the London Olympics. Again, not to get all mushy, but along with McFadden he is the American dream in action. His father walked from war-torn Eritrea to Sudan, then moved to Italy where he worked multiple jobs for five years until he had enough money to send for the rest of his family. They later immigrated to the United States, where Meb excelled academically and athletically, eventually getting into UCLA. A naturalized citizen, he was the first American man to win the marathon since 1983, and, at 38 years old, the oldest winner since the 1930s. And he is every bit as American as anybody else here. He planned to run last year, but got injured, so he watched from near the finish line on Boylston Street. And he left to go do commentary at a Copley Square hotel only minutes before the bombs went off. He too has become close to the Richard family, and raised ten grand for the foundation named after their son.

So, yes, yesterday was a great day for Boston to show off the best of America and welcome the rest of the world. I think this city did them proud. Hopefully now the marathon can be known more for the resilience of the people who ran in it, rather than for what was forced upon it last year.


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