Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lobel: The Marathon Takes Center Stage this Spring

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

Up until last year, April was the month that brought baseball back to Boston and the Bruins back to the National Hockey League playoffs.  

The latter is thought by many to be the greatest competitive sporting event of this, or any other time of the year. The NHL playoffs are pure drama and pure effort. I am one of those who would agree with that. The NHL playoffs are simply the best. No stupid shootouts, and for some reason the NHL seems to roll out different rules for these approximately six weeks of sport bliss. 

By definition, the regular season is a waste of time. The Bruins used this time to solidify the perception that they are one of the best, if not the best, team going into the playoffs. That probably means little when trying to predict the outcome, but better to be there than the last seed to get in. 

Strange things happen in those NHL playoffs, which is why they are so fun to watch. Still, even with the Red Sox and their rings, and the Bruins and their playoff hopes, it’s the Boston Marathon that takes on added significance this year. 

I mean, the marathon has always been important as an event and the day off for the Patriots Day holiday, plus the 11am Red Sox start. But we all know that this year is different. Very, very different. 

The marathon was always an iconic event, covered in depth by local media (yours truly for at least 25 years, after actually running it in 1978. Same day finish, I might add). If you ask me my time I will tell you two stories about that day. When I hit Wellesley, the halfway point, I could hear the portable radios and the voice of Gil Santos calling the finish with Bill Rodgers completing his fourth win. So we were at Wellesley College when Rodgers was finishing 13 miles to the east. 

The other time marker was coming up heartbreak hill. In 1978, The Boston Globe had an evening edition and when we were halfway up the hills, that evening edition was out proclaiming Rodgers wins his 4th marathon.  

After that, it was all down hill. Literally.

At the finish line, I was greeted by non other than the late Dave Maynard who was covering for WBZ Radio. I have that picture somewhere. But here in 2014, the Boston Marathon, while always providing story after story and hero after hero, has become such a symbol of the soul of this city. It’s not like the Patriots Day race wasn’t always a unique event. It always was just that. 

Humans challenging themselves against gravity for 26.2 miles has become an event to demonstrate the spirit of the soul. It has become so much more than following a Kenyan or two down Boylston street to the public library. Boston Strong was born a year ago in April, and will be played out on the 21st in a way none of us could have ever predicted. 

Victims’ stories will be told and retold. The question of “where were you when” has already been circulating and will just continue to grow. It will be the topic of conversation that will take over the usual weather forecast chatter that used to dominate the days leading up to Monday in Hopkinton.  

There will be a marathon museum there that was in the planning before last year. That will be a great take. There is an exhibit in the Boston Public Library, now open, that memorializes the events of 12 months ago. That is a great take.  

I can only urge you to be part of this 21st day of April. Run, walk, watch, cheer, pray, whatever. 

This is your day, and while some tried to take it away, they unwittingly gave it such added meaning that we owe it to each other to celebrate such spirit together. 

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