Three friends and I decided to bike the course of the Boston Marathon. We left early Sunday so that we could explore Massachusetts. For whatever reason, we all felt responsible to experience the course. We began by cycling over the finish line at Copley.
As we passed by the rebuilt storefronts, I saw memories of pain I wish I could not resurrect. I gripped the handlebars, supporting my weight on two wheels. The images of last year pounded through my head, playing with the peaceful reality we walked through. Having a bicycle made it easy to get away from the memories.
From there, we stormed the state. We took the commuter rail to Southborough before noon then found our way into Hopkinton State Park. We rode through trails, climbed over fell trees and played music by the reservoir. Our bikes brought us to the Southborough House of Pizza, which was disappointingly closed, then over many miles toward the starting line.
Around 6 p.m., while standing in the shoulder of Massachusetts 9, we decided to head back to Boston. After more than 10 miles of cycling around, beginning at the starting line in Hopkinton would have eaten more daylight. Also, we had about 25 miles to cover, and doubling back for another 4 with our huge backpacks and dim headlights seemed agonizing.
As it got colder, we pushed through Framingham, passing the 6-Mile Marker. People walked in front of us at intersections, going about the rest of their holiday evenings. The sun was barely setting and people had no idea that the four of us were testing out the marathon route for Monday’s runners.
On Route 30, the most dangerous part of the adventure, just a few miles from Newton, I pushed my bike to its limit. On the highest gear and on a paved road, I cycled as hard as I could, attempting to keep up with the cars zooming past. I went so fast that pedaling would not make me go any faster. Pushing down on the pedals couldn’t give me any more momentum as I skyrocketed ahead of our group. The wind pushed against me as I persisted downhill, telling me to slow down and that the next 10 miles of the would happen eventually. I still pushed as hard as I could.
After experiencing the horror of the Boston Marathon, I could not let myself slow down.
One year ago, I saw the carnage of the Boston Marathon bombings with one of the closest friends I will ever have. We rushed to the blast, ready to report on what happened, and saw more blood on the street than anyone should see. We saw paramedics performing CPR, we saw limbs and we saw the sheer pain the marathon bombings caused. That is why I decided to bike the marathon route.
We powered past Boston College, gleefully shouting profanity like the freshman we once were. We sailed through Beacon Hill, careened through Coolidge Corner then came to a screeching halt at Boylston Street at 10 p.m. We had to dismount our bicycles right where we stood when the bombs went off.
We take the credit for being the first team to finish the 2014 Boston Marathon, even though we got lost several times.
Over 40 miles of cycling led to the moment of catharsis I have needed since April 15, 2013. Passing over that finish line meant more than just closure; it reminded me why I chose to attend Boston University. It gave me a reason to try to stop running away from this city. I left my pain at the Finish Line and embraced my friends.
Brian Latimer is Managing Editor of the Daily Free Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.