As a boy, Brian Garrity offered cups of water to passing marathon racers looking to quench their thirst or douse their heated skin.
More than 20 years later, Mr. Garrity has run two marathons, though he still hasn’t had a taste of the storied Boston Marathon. But as the skies turned grey and spat showers on Tuesday, Mr. Garrity set out on an hour-long jog from the blue-and-yellow starting line in Hopkinton, Mass., the long-time launching pad for runners in the world’s oldest annual marathon.
The Globe and Mail traced the race route, encountering runners young and old, fast and slow, following in the footsteps of Monday’s competitors. From the “Welcome Runners” banner in Hopkinton to Wellesley’s majestic town hall to Newton’s “Heartbreak Hill” and ultimately Copley Square, they laced up in spite – in fact “because” as one put it – of the attack.
On any other day, these panting athletes would have blended in with all the other joggers typically ubiquitous here – rain or shine, morning and night, Boston is indisputably a runner’s city. But Tuesday, a run seemed to constitute more than exercise or daily routine: For many, it was a statement – perhaps the most visible, visceral and most natural one for this almost obsessive cohort.
“I decided, as a memorial to the runners, to run this part of the course today,” said Mr. Garrity, a 29-year-old Waltham resident whose cousin was near the explosion and ran toward it to help victims. “And for the spectators too, since it’s the people cheering who carry you through the finish line.”
Boston College student Meaghan Finn’s run was a “tribute,” she said, before turning onto Commonwealth Avenue bound for the notorious slow incline of Heartbreak Hill.
For others, it was about achieving a sense of normalcy, or even asserting a patriotic pride in the face of whomever it was that stole the high from the finish line and loved ones from their families.
In Rafal Boni’s mind, he ran – clad in whatever Boston race gear he could find – in part because he could: “I didn’t really want to get going, and then I thought, ‘Why am I so whiney? I’m healthy, both legs are attached,’ ” he said, insisting on jogging during the interview through Wellesley, the race’s midway point.
Mr. Boni plans to run the entire course three weeks from now with his friend, Michele, who was stopped in her tracks at the 18-mile 29-kilometre mark after the explosions. In fact, thousands of people have signed onto a Facebook group pledging to run 26 miles 42 kilometres in the next month to honour the victims.
Among that group is 47-year-old Mike Seyffert, who on Tuesday ran part of the final leg toward Boston Common before being diverted off the course by security barricades.
“A person attacked our city and our sport, and although they scared us, we need to show them that they can’t stop us,” said marathoner Mr. Seyffert, who didn’t run Monday but heard the explosion while watching the race with his wife. “It’s been emotional, but I was looking forward to it almost in a defiant sort of way.”
A woman named Morgan, still recovering from a C-section after the birth of her twin boys eight weeks ago, speed-walked near the crime scene despite that voice in her head that said, “As a mom of three young kids, should I be out here?”
Ultimately, though, she embraced the pavement because it is her neighbourhood pavement – an extension of her home, she said, adding, “and I just wanted to do what I normally do.”
Tuesday, however, ushered anything but a semblance of normalcy for Julie Bridgeforth, a petite Arkansas woman who counted Monday’s near-finish as her 50th marathon (she was stopped at the 25.5-mile mark).
Ms. Bridgeforth and her husband, Bill, had been staying at the Lenox Hotel, but it was evacuated and closed Monday so they snatched the last room at a nearby hotel. Still donning Monday’s striped running skirt, red race jacket and blue-laced sneakers, Ms. Bridgeforth held hands with her husband as she shopped for fresh clothes to tide her over before gathering their belongings.
“I think it’s good that people are [running the course] – that’s what we need to do,” she said as she started to cry. “We can’t let these people defeat us. We have to be strong and, you know, fight back – we have to just …”
“Run,” her husband finished.