UPDATED: May 7, 2014, at 2:30 a.m.
“One, two, three, four...” Linda Muri was counting steps as she approached the Boston Marathon finish line when she noticed a wave of sound traveling alongside her. Though there were nearly 50 others runners around her, the loudest cheers seemed to be moving in harmony with each one of her steps.
Then Muri saw a shadow behind her and turned her head to see a woman pointing to her and revving up the crowd. Eight weeks ago, Muri would have been just another one of the 35,000-plus runners, easy to overlook amidst all the commotion and excitement on Boylston Street.
But on Marathon Monday, a bright pink shirt and recently shaved head, though hidden partially by a men’s freshman lightweight crew hat, set her apart.Tipped off by Muri’s appearance and the gestures of the woman running behind her, the thousands of spectators who descended upon Boylston Street raised the volume of their cheering and clapping to an even higher decibel.
Their screams and exclamations of ‘Boston Strong’ replaced the sounds of sirens, cries, and chaos that had filled the same air just a year before.
For Muri, the ‘Boston Strong’ slogan seemed especially applicable.
Six weeks before the marathon, Muri was diagnosed with breast cancer. Three weeks before the marathon, Muri started chemotherapy. With the marathon on day eight of her second 14-day cycle of treatment, Muri was not sure she would be able to run the entire course even when the race started. Muri tapped into the wave of cheers that accompanied her as she neared the finish line.
These final steps on Boylston marked not just the completion of a goal she set for herself one year ago, but also an affirmation that even cancer would not stop her.
A week later, the memory of Boylston Street still gives Muri goosebumps.
“There were so many people, I was overcome,” Muri said. “I felt like people were thanking me for being there, but I was thanking them for being there, for coming back and knowing that it was okay to do this.”
FROM 2K to 42K
For Muri, coach of the men’s freshman lightweight crew team and a three-time rowing world champion, the 2K is a familiar distance. 42K? Not so much.
After last year’s tragedy, Muri felt compelled to leave her comfort zone in the water and take to the blacktop. Not only was she standing at the finish line of last year’s marathon before leaving for afternoon crew practice, but she also resides within the 20-block radius of Watertown closed down in the search for the second of the two bombers.
“I wanted to show my support for the people who were…injured and killed and be a part of the resiliency of the greater Boston community,” Muri said.
Muri maintained her fitness level by rowing in a single and running a couple of times a week during the fall. Her running increased in volume as she began an 18-week training program in December.