The early-morning mist had yet to give way to the afternoon sun, early enough in the day that the celebration wasn’t in full gear either. The scenes around Copley Square were still relatively quiet, especially set against the ones that were sure to come, those familiar waves of runners crashing their way down Boylston Street.
Yet here, tucked in a corner behind the famous finish line, on a plaza in front of Trinity Church, there was a beautiful scene unfolding anyway. Here, volunteers stood at the ready, rows of Marathon medals hanging from their arms, destined for the necks of wheelchair participants. And as those finishers rolled in, some raising their arms, others bumping their fists in triumph, one greeter’s voice consistently rose above the rest.
“Woo hoo — congratulations!” Susan Tamasi shouted, clapping her hands as the medals dangled below. “You did it!”
They did it. We did it.
Boston did it.
For the first time in 910 days, for the first time since April of 2019, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed pause on the oldest annually run marathon in the world, the Boston Marathon was back. Back with its stirring early winners, back with its amazing open division champions, back with its first-ever para athletics division, back with its 18,000-plus entrants representing all 50 states in the union and 104 countries worldwide.
“It gives you hope,” said Tamasi, the Canton native who was doing her second stint as a volunteer at the wheelchair medal line.
A two-time marathoner herself, the last one in Chicago in 2017, she was inspired by a sister with physical disabilities to get involved. From running for charities to working with the Special Olympics to showing up for her home city, Tamasi definitely brought enthusiasm (and plenty of hugs and smiles, too) Monday.
“To be here, to give medals to these amazing athletes, the energy they give us, it’s such a joy to give some of that energy back to them,” she added. “It’s just like being out there as a runner; you feed off that energy. It gives you hope, don’t you think? You persevere, just like these athletes, just like we all have.”
Maybe that’s why it felt like such a party Monday, with the sound system at Boylston Street encouraging us to “walk on sunshine” with Katrina and the Waves or letting One Direction remind us “that’s what makes you beautiful,” with fans back lining the streets with their signs and their selfies, with runners striding across that finish line with smiles so wide you’d think their faces might crack.
With the streets from Newbury to Clarendon thick with finishers eagerly finding their people, their reunions set off mini-eruptions like human fireworks, pop, pop, pop: “You did it!” A mountain of silver warming blankets had grown through the spokes of the barricades funneling runners toward the postrace gathering areas, a mountain that would dwindle as runner after runner wrapped themselves in that uniquely marathonish badge of honor.
With sprigs of fall foliage popping up where spring flowers normally bud, with the mist of an autumn morning replacing the more familiar April sunrise, the date may have been different, but the feeling was the same. The hierarchy of colored jackets, from red windbreakers on medical personnel, to yellow jackets on those guiding the winners to their finish line, to blue for other volunteers. The dark blue Boston police uniforms with their bright yellow vests, the fire trucks, and EMT vehicles all poised and ready to help.
From that finish line all the way back to Hopkinton, the people returned, eager to share some semblance of a normal we once knew, even one that now includes masks and a few extra barricades to aid in social distancing. The people returned, lining the hills in Newton or hanging from the windows on Boylston.
“Growing up in Massachusetts, that was really special, really neat to have people I recognized along the way,” said Colin Bennie, the top American finisher in seventh place. “My high school track coach was there up in Newton to give me a shout-out; that was a lot of fun. Boston was probably always going to be my first major, so it felt nice to come home and have a good race.”
In a recent Boston.com piece that explained why he was running, the 24-year-old Princeton native spoke of the inspiration of his older brothers Graham and Jeremy, whose combined 12 Boston Marathons were happening while Colin was competing for Wachusett High School and then Syracuse University. To finally get his turn on roads he has watched since childhood and to do it on a day that already was celebrating the return of the treasured Boston event was, well, magical.
“I don’t think I really could have understood what it’s like to run Boston until you actually do it,” he said. “Comparing this to the marathon I ran last December in Arizona, the Marathon Project, when it was like 50 coaches lining the race course, to have thousands of people shouting at you, it was cool. There is no experience that can measure up to something like this. To finally say I did it was special.
“I’m very likely to be coming back.”
He did it. He’ll be back. Like the Marathon itself, back and more welcome than ever.
More marathon coverage
- Shalane Flanagan ran the Boston Marathon a day after running Chicago — and she’s not done yet
- It was a stunning debut in Boston Marathon for women’s champ Diana Kipyokei
- A former Patriot and a Broadway star were among those who ran the Boston Marathon