On Monday, April 21 more than 36,000 people will run the Boston Marathon. A year after the bombings at the 2013 Marathon, enthusiasm for the race is higher than ever.
Several members of the Harvard College Marathon Challenge plan to run and fundraise in support of PBHA.
Craig F. Rodgers, who founded HCMC, runs its listserv, and admits that no one at Harvard is going to win the race. But for him, the most important part of the day is enjoying the non-competitive aspects, like interacting with spectators, high-fiving kids, listening to the music, and taking in the atmosphere.
“For me, the thing I enjoy most about Boston is the unique experience of having that many other runners and spectators around.” Rodgers says. “The running 26 miles is secondary, because you can do it alone any day of the week. It’s much more about community and people than it is about the race.”
Sophie E. Heller ’14, an inactive Crimson editor, is of a similar opinion. For her, it’s not about the time as much as it is about being able to finish the race. Heller began running to relieve personal stress during her sophomore year, and then decided to try to run the Marathon.
“The most exciting thing is the fact I’m doing it,” Heller says. “It’s such a shocking transformation from thinking I’d never do a 5k in my wildest dreams to running a marathon.”
Heller is a member of the HCMC, and although she enjoys running alone to clear her head, she also appreciates the support and informal community offered by the HCMC.
According to Rodgers, people post to the HCMC list to crowdsource opinions from and to coordinate runs with the other members. There’s a real sense of community, and of the value of running together.
“The last three or four miles. That’s what I’m most excited for,” says Alex C. Boota ’14, also an HCMC member. “When I finally get to see downtown Boston and the whole city out there cheering.”
This will be Boota’s first full-length marathon, and like many members on the HCMC listserv, he doesn’t have previous marathon experience. Boota starting running to keep in shape during his freshman year at Harvard, and after watching the Boston Marathon on TV, he made running a marathon his personal goal. But this year is different.
“Now I’m not necessarily running for myself,” Boota says. “I’m running for survivors, the people who experienced the events of last year, the city in general, and the idea that we have a responsibility to run.”
Many of the runners acknowledge that there will be changes to the Marathon this year, including a noticeable increase in security. One of the big crackdowns will be on “running bandit,” or running the Marathon without having registered. While he admits the decision is understandable, Boota is still disappointed.
“It takes away from the community feel of it a little,” Boota says. “I was looking forward to friends running the last five or six miles with me. But I guess it’s more of a safety issue now.”
Heller, too, expects to feel the effects of increased security, including no longer being allowed to check a bag at the start of the race. “I’m having my mom send me old clothes to wear while I’m waiting to start,” Heller says. “That way I can just throw them out once the marathon starts without having to worry about them.”
Until the events last year, Kate D. D’Orazio ’15 was going to wait until she graduated to run the Marathon. But D’Orazio is from the Boston area, and was deeply affected by last year’s events, so she committed to running this year.
“I decided to run because I’m proud of Boston and proud of the resilience,” D’Orazio says. “There’s no better way to show that than running and raising money, to make something good out of what happened last year.”
Boota, too, realizes that this Marathon in particular will be a unique mix of memory and celebration.
“It’s different because the Marathon is usually a very personal goal,” Boota says. “Teamwork always helps, but this year is unique in that all of us are running for something other than ourselves.”