Marathon Monday is a uniquely Boston celebration. It takes place each April on Patriots Day, which is celebrated by few others around the nation. Maine, once part of Massachusetts, also marks the holiday to remember the battles of Lexington and Concord. Boston shuts down on that day to welcome world-class athletes (and world-class partiers) from around the world.
The Boston Marathon winds its way from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, snaking into town as the Red Sox wrap up their annual morning start. With any luck, the Bruins have a playoff game that night, giving us something to move on to as the sun sets.
For those of us who live here, it is our day. That’s why the bombings of April 15, 2013, were so shocking.
Timed to cause maximum damage and chaos, the two explosions near the marathon finish line happened about an hour after the Red Sox celebrated a walk-off win at Fenway Park. Some 38,000 fans had just come out of the ballpark — joining the throng already gathered along the race route.
Many who ran that race never got to finish. They were stopped some two miles away as emergency crews rushed to the area.
The Red Sox learned of the attack as they boarded a bus and headed for Cleveland shortly after the game. In Ohio for just three days, the team came together and stood up for a city that had been brought to its knees. It was another example of how sports can help a city — or a nation — heal. The bond between the 2013 Red Sox and the city of Boston was forged in tears, and ended in triumph as the World Series champions stopped their victory parade to place a trophy at the finish line and honor the victims of the bombings.
We may never see another connection like it. Last year’s Red Sox were expected to finish last. Even in Boston few had faith in them as the season began. All that had changed by October, when Shane Victorino had us singing lyrics which would’ve been unthinkable in April.
“Every little thing is gonna be alright.”
There’s another line that resonates from last year’s tragedy. It came the day after a Boston lockdown with police scouring until the alleged bomber was found. It came as the sun broke the clouds and a ballpark full of apprehensive fans cheered for the first responders who were the true heroes of the week.
David Ortiz is no Bob Marley, but his words were just as potent: “This is our (bleeping) city!”
Today, we commemorate the one-year anniversary of a day with mixed emotions. But from now on, an unbridled annual celebration will be more guarded. We’ll cheer for runners while looking for any signs of danger. We’ll note increased security citywide.
The return of the marathon next Monday will be another important step in moving beyond the pain of 2013.
We’ll be cheering again — at the ballpark and the finish line. We’ll remember how sports can bring us together as a community that believes in overcoming the odds. The 2013 Red Sox bounced back from their worst season in nearly 50 years to win it all. Impressive — but it pales in comparison to the comeback the city of Boston continues to make. Next Monday that comeback will continue as tens of thousands of runners embark on a journey that will end in triumph — at the very spot where tragedy tried to cut us down just one year ago.
Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.