Almost every year since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings that killed his younger brother, Martin, Henry Richard had returned to Boylston Street as a spectator.
On Monday, in a poignant moment of resilience and tribute, the 20-year-old crossed the finish line of the first spring Boston Marathon in three years, his brother’s name written across his extended right bicep.
After finishing his debut marathon in a time of 4:02:20, he embraced his family: his younger sister Jane, who lost a leg in the bombings, and his parents, Bill and Denise.
“There was so much emotion packed there,” Henry Richard said of turning onto Boylston Street and passing the site of the bombings nine years ago. “Everyone was cheering for me. Taking that corner, seeing some family and some close friends on that corner — that meant a lot.”
As he made his way down the long road from Hopkinton to Boston, Richard said he imagined running the race with his brother, who at 8 years old was the youngest of the three people killed in the attack. He would have been 17 this spring, just a couple of months away from graduating high school.
“I know if [Martin] was here, either this year or the next coming years, he would have been doing it with me,” Richard said. “That’s all I could think about.”
In the days after the bombings, a photograph of Martin Richard holding a hand-lettered sign that read “No more hurting people. Peace” became a worldwide symbol of youthful innocence and resolve in the face of terrible loss. In 2019 “Martin’s Park” opened in the Seaport near the Children’s Museum, and a foundation in his name is raising funds for a 75,000-square-foot indoor-turf field house on Harbor Point in Dorchester.
On its website — teammr8.org — the foundation pledges to “advance the values of inclusion, kindness, justice and peace. We invest in community programs that broaden horizons for young people and encourage them to celebrate diversity and engage in positive civic action.”
In 2015, the Richard family spoke out against the death penalty for the surviving perpetrator of the bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, writing that “we hope our two remaining children do not have to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them, which years of appeals would undoubtedly bring.”
On Monday, Henry Richard ran past the spot on Boylston Street where in 2013 he and his family stood next to a backpack bomb. By the time he embraced his family, sweat had worn off part of his brother’s name on his arm and the name of his sister, who was 7 in April 2013, across his back.
Henry Richard, who attends Pace University, said his training had gone well, allowing him to enjoy the experience and soak up an outpouring of crowd support.
“So many people out there for me — my friends, my family, the motivation was the least of my worries, there were so many people to support me,” he said. “It was wonderful. I couldn’t believe it.”
The final stretch of the race was “beyond words,” he said. “It’s even more incredible than I ever imagined.”
Richard said he is sure he will run the Boston Marathon again.
“Of course — 100 percent, there is not a doubt in my mind,” he said. “I loved every second of it. This feels so great, I can’t wait to do it again.”
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Michael Silverman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.