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Pride, Pain and

The Boston Marathon

By Susan K. Brown

Picture Prudential Center milling with tens of thousands of people, all happy, some waving balloons or shirts. Now add foil-like capes to hundreds of them, so that it seems the Pru is teeming with muscled Martians. And you have it--the aftermath of the Boston Marathon.

Families were meandering around with cameras and water and wrapping the shining foil "Marathon blankets" around the runners to conserve their body heat. Police tried, mostly in vain, to control the jubilant crowd, and hucksters wandered throughout the crowd peddling everything from armbands to yogurt.

"T-shirt, t-shirt..." implored a blond moppet missing a front tooth. He and his family were hawking marathon shirts for $2. The toddler sold out. Down the street a hot dog stand ran a brisk trade; pretzel vendors catered to the crowd, and ice cream trucks jingled by to catch the attentions of the pre-school set.

Entrepreneurial Onslaught

The runners weren't immune from the entrepreneurial onslaught. They had no sooner finished the race than they were given the opportunity of a life time to buy certificates declaring in fancy letters on parchment and signed by witnesses that they had completed the Boston Marathon. For only $1.

Most runners simply weren't interested. Many huddled, marathon blankets surrounding them, on the sidewalk, until they could move again. When they walked, their steps were halting, painful lurches like the first steps of an amputee. Many limped home in a near-catatonic state, supported by joyous friends and relatives.

The underground parking lot at the Pru looked like Yankee Stadium after a World Series win. Thousands of paper cups lay crushed on the wet cement, illuminated by the glittering blankets crumpled against posts. Families wandered around looking for runners; marathoners ambled back and forth to keep their legs from cramping.

Against one corner a makeshift medical unit was set up, staffed by nearly 100 doctors, podiatrists, nurses and muscle therapists. "We see about 20 per cent of the people who run," Dr. Jonathan J. Scarlet, a podiatry coordinator for the marathon, said yesterday. He added, "The number goes up as the temperature rises. We bring podiatry students along to keep a census, but they get so busy fetching water that nobody can keep count."

The athletes needing serious medical attention went to Massachusetts General Hospital. Twenty--most suffering from exhaustion--were hospitalized this year, but all had been released by the evening. John Rzasa, a driver for Fallon's Ambulance Service, said he took four runners to the hospital yesterday. "I'm never going to work at a marathon again," he said. "When you're an ambulance driver, you've got to be a Philadelphia lawyer, a P.R. man and sometimes even a weatherman," he added as several people came to ask him if he had seen their friends.

No one, not even ambulance drivers, could move easily in the crowd. Athletes sat in the sidewalks or streets; their families gathered around the bulletin board where the times were posted (almost 20 runners from Cambridge finished the race in less than three-and-a-half hours); the police had to escort away pedestrians who simply refused to move. One group of students roared in triumphant cheer the Notre Dame fight song. Families set up picnic lunches on the sidewalk outside Lord and Taylor to catch the sunlight. Other spectators waited along the finish line to cheer on the marathoners for more than three hours after Bill Rodgers, the winner, came in.

Custom-Made Shirts

Spectators themselves were marveling over the race for hours. Some were amazed by the strength of the 24 wheelchair marathoners, while others merely cheered on the athletes with the most creative shirts. One woman wore a t-shirt saying "agony"; her partner's "ecstasy."

"Of course it was grueling," one runner from Attleboro said. "It was even boring at first. But then the crowd picked me up. And the people who identified with the decal on my shirt (the Rolling Stones' red mouth-and-tongue) yelled for me. It was great."

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