It was cool before the start of the 13th running of Boston’s Run to Remember—mid-50s and mostly cloudy. In the shade, a light breeze was enough to goosebump naked arms and cause the lightly dressed runner to shiver. A half hour out from the start, the corrals were filling slowly, with most runners opting for the sun-bathed back of the pack, or the comfort of inside the Seaport World Trade Center.
The race’s emcee worked hard to raise the energy level of sleep-deprived and possibly non-caffeinated runners. When asked how excited we were, I could barely manage a lazy clap. (In my defense, my alarm went off at 4:00 and I still hadn’t had coffee).
The pre-race program included the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums, a moment of silence for the fallen first responders, and a fly-over by a Massachusetts State Police helicopter. By the time the gun went off for Wave Two of three, I was more than ready for my 11thRun to Remember.
When I began running this race, I ran it for personal accomplishment. It was a half marathon. 13.1 miles. Cause for bragging rights. At some point over the last decade, however, the true meaning of the event – held in honor first responders killed in the line of duty – finally seeped in. When you’re running or when you’re milling about at the expo, between the police officers at every intersection, the free-for-the-taking honor bibs for those first responders, the fire truck ladder on Memorial, and the flag bearers running the race, it’s impossible to forget what you’re running for.
I love this race. Granted, I have a connection to this event that has kept me running it for 11 years, and I’m now a member of DMSE Sports, the logistics management team, but it is a great race.
Each year, the race continues to improve upon the previous year’s event. Each year, it’s a bit different, a bit better. Three examples of what stood out to me this year:
- Porta potties: I don’t think I’m alone in my obsession with porta pottie placement—Are there enough? Are they in a place that makes sense? Are there enough?? This year, not only were there so many at the start line that I forwent waiting in line for the indoor restrooms, but they were strategically placed and easy to access. Brilliant. Easily the highlight of my morning, so much so I’m clearly still talking about it. (In 2016, as a comparison, I remember the portas extended all the way down the pier, which caused a traffic jam… runners thought all the portas were occupied, but the ones at the far end were completely empty).
- Bag drop: The bag drop is super easy and I’ve never had an issue with my belongings walking off with another runner. In the last couple years, the race has also offered runners added security by renting a “locker” for a couple bucks, which I imagine would help alleviate any concern if you have to keep some valuables in the bag.
- SMS notification: New this year, and super surprise to me, the race implemented SMS notification as runners crossed the timing mats (along with a follow-up e-mail with your race results and Facebook posting). I have no idea if I could have set up notifications for my friends’ times, but I appreciated knowing the mats recognized my chip.
Running on Memorial Drive is by far my favorite part of the half marathon. During the years when it’s been sunny and hot, this stretch of non-shaded pavement has been brutal. Luckily, though, there’s the spectacular view of Boston to keep runners occupied (and dreaming of the finish). Additionally, participants running in the opposite direction on the parkway provide welcome distraction and inspiration, whether they’re the lead runners or those behind you. A row of police vehicles line up to greet the runners, and the officers cheer for the runners and give high-fives as they pass. The crew and volunteers are just as supportive, giving runners encouragement while handing out water and Gatorade for hours.
This year, I experienced the finish line like I hadn’t before in more than a decade. (I’ve always been more interested in shutting down the post-race with friends.)
I watched runners from the back of the pack run their hardest to cross the finish line strong. I saw a mother/son duo with Team MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) cross, with the son running beside his mom and the wheelchair that carried him for most of the race. I heard the emcee introduce a police officer from the country of Jordan who came all the way to Boston just to run this race. I saw exhausted runners become momentarily elated as they heard their names announced as they crossed the finish (I know I enjoyed hearing mine). I got to witness the runner (race results state her name as Heather Viveiros) I had seen earlier on the course, carrying the American, Armed Forces, and Thin Blue Line flags, stop to shake the hand of each of the officers who were near the finish, which is just what she did the previous 13 miles.
And then, there was this kid:
This was around mile 2, and I presumed he was running the five-mile. But then I saw him finishing the half marathon.
That 8-year-old boy—Jordan Ramirez—is going to be running seven marathons on seven continents within the next three years. His 15-year-old sister, Blanca, who finished the half beside him, holds the distinction of being the youngest marathoner to complete seven marathons on seven continents when she was 13. These kids are just superhuman, and they’ll probably accomplish more in their lifetimes than I could ever dream of fitting into mine.
All of this is why I love this race. I love the history—both its and my own that’s tied to it; I love the people who run it and cheer on the sidelines despite it being early Sunday morning; and I love what we run for.