When asking Boston locals what makes Boston so special, I’m willing to bet that five out of 10 will answer related to sports. I’m also willing to bet that three of those five will respond with that famous Boston accent that shell-shocks my out-of-state friends whenever my parents open their mouths.
To all my Boston sports fans out there, you can stop holding your breath and relax. This is not an argument piece. I don’t think there’s enough reasoning for anyone to say that 17 NBA championships, six Stanley Cups, nine World Series and six Super Bowls don’t sound like an all-around athletic machine.
Without further ado, it’s time to reveal the Boston sport that means the most to me. No, it is not the Boston Celtics, the curse-breaking Red Sox, the millennium’s powerhouse of the Patriots or our signature Boston Bruins. My favorite Boston sport is running.
Call me biased because I ran cross country all four years of high school, but nothing is more consistent when it comes to surrounding the spirit of Boston athletics with magic than the Boston Marathon.
My journey with the Boston Marathon began in 2011 when I ran my first 5k race with my mother. The next day, I excitedly told my second-grade teacher (Ms. Jaruzawicus) about that exciting news. She told me she was also a runner and was training for the 2012 Boston Marathon.
That spring, my mother and I took the Red Line to Park Street, switched to Kenmore and stood by the mile 25 marker. At 4 feet 10 inches tall, fighting the six-person deep crowd was my World War III, but I made it just in time to peek through the guardrail and watch the bleach-blonde head of my teacher run up to me for a hug.
To this day, I lead my Boston Marathon tales with that wholesome moment of student-to-teacher love and the power of a cheerleader. Part of this is to cloud my memory of the marathon with the triumphant sounds of cowbells. Still, the deafening crowds can’t overpower the year that detonated my childhood, along with so many other Bostonian children.
It was the most beautiful spring day, almost too perfect. April 15, 2013. I left home with bunny-looped sneakers and too much Banana Boat sunscreen. I came home with a paralyzing sense of anxiety. The sight of those bombings replayed on the living room television when we returned.
Scared to go to the playground, those next five days were filled with nothing but chalk and skateboarding in my elementary school friend’s cul-de-sac, the neighborhood’s makeshift sanctuary. Nothing but chatter, news radio and P!nk’s “Just Give Me a Reason” clouded the dead atmosphere every hour until the city banded together.
At the April 17 Bruins hockey game, we listened when the entire arena sang the national anthem, and joined in. On April 20, we danced hand in hand to Neil Diamond’s live “Sweet Caroline” at the Red Sox game and cheered when David Ortiz told us that this was our city.
It has almost been 10 years, and I still have the youth large “Boston Strong” t-shirt I received after April break. It doesn’t fit, but it’s sewn into a little quilt and sits on my twin XL.
Yes, these events are devastating, but any account of that fateful day carries heavy importance. Accounts serve as a reminder of locals’ unity and resilience. Accounts are a point of education for out-of-state students, who may not understand the magnitude of what this upcoming anniversary means to Boston.
Even after tragedy, the Boston Marathon remains Boston’s signature feel-good phenomenon. Last year, as I crossed the David Ortiz Bridge, I missed my train to cheer runners on for 30 minutes and left with a fulfilled sense of community. On the Green Line train to Riverside later that day, I watched runners excitedly take pictures with their medals and families.
To anyone reading this, find time to visit the Boston Marathon if you’re in the area. It will showcase Boston’s astounding spirit, especially this year. If you’re a runner this year, good luck! Wear that blue and yellow with pride for your city and the victims we continue to remember with love.