New Hampshire locals cherish experience at Boston Marathon
With five hours of running and about 26 miles behind her yesterday, Kally Abrams of Bow was closing in on the finish line at her first Boston Marathon when emotion nearly overwhelmed her.
She found her family cheering, not far from where two blasts during last year’s marathon killed three people and injured hundreds.
“I am kind of an emotional person,” Abrams said. “When I took the left turn onto Boylston Street I got goose bumps, and it wasn’t because of the wind.”
Amid the cheers, the 43-year-old posed for photos and accepted a fist bump from her son, who reminded her to finish strong.
“It was amazing. It was absolutely amazing,” Abrams said.
She was among the dozens of local residents who ran the 118th Boston Marathon, a historic moment for a city still feeling the effects of last year’s bombing. More than 32,000 runners participated in the marathon.
Keith Shields of Northwood ran last year and never doubted he would run again this year, his 16th consecutive Boston Marathon appearance.
“The Boston Marathon has a special place in my heart,” Shields said. “I literally think it is the best race in the world.”
Like previous Marathon Mondays, Shields met with running friends before catching a bus to the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass.
When he arrived, three hours before the race, people were already outside waving at runners. He also noticed more police officers at the starting line and along the race route and said safety was never an issue.
“It really didn’t even cross my mind,” he said, adding that runners had to pass through a metal detector to get from their buses to the waiting area near the starting line.
A moment of silence preceded the race. Then “the energy at the starting line was through the roof,” Shields said, and support was evident throughout the race.
This year, the huge crowds that usually gather near the finish line were scattered along the entire route. More supporters gathered in suburban communities such as Natick and Framingham than ever before, Shields said.
“You really noticed more crowds in the early miles in the town centers,” he said. “It was really like five people deep in the (early) miles. As you got closer and closer to the finish line, you saw more and more people.”
Some wore shirts and waved banners displaying the names of victims. Others handed water to runners.
Early in the race, Abrams said she saw people handing out liquor shots and cigarettes.
“It was just such good entertainment,” she said.
Spectators thanked Abrams for running and chanted “Stonyfield” as she ran by, a reference to the company, which sponsored a team of employees that included Abrams.
“The wittiness of the signs and the chanting and the cheering were just great,” she said. “Someone told me when I started not so long ago that runners are nice people. I didn’t run into one person that would make me think otherwise.”
Concord resident Danny Ferreira had run the Boston Marathon before, but he couldn’t anticipate the mood at the starting line as he boarded the bus to Hopkinton.
He walked around with a video camera and asked volunteers and runners why they decided to participate.
“There were somber moments, but it was definitely more of, ‘Let’s get out there and do this. We are not going to be deterred and we are not going to back down,’ ” said Ferreira, 31. “The Boston Strong thing really was appropriate.”
Near the halfway point, Ferreira stopped where Wellesley College girls traditionally gather to cheer – and offer free kisses – to runners.
“It was deafening. You could hear them from a quarter mile away,” he said.
He chatted with college students while they sipped beer and applauded.
“It was impossible to be bored on this course,” Ferreira said. “It was just awesome. There wasn’t a single spot on the course where there wasn’t hundreds of spectators.”
In Concord, members of the Granite State Racing Club followed their friends’ progress online.
“We all sent around the bib numbers so we could follow along,” said Jim Monahan, president of the club.
“I might not be as productive today because I’ll be tracking people,” he joked.
The club didn’t have an official team entry, but about eight of its members ran.
“My sense is that there certainly is a total recognition that last year was such a tragedy, while recognizing that the sport itself is looking for it to be a great race,” Monahan said.
The week preceding the marathon included memorials and tributes to the victims of last year’s bombing.
“We had this week of remembrances and memorials, and sadness and reflection that we kind of went through, so I really feel the majority of people felt like today was a new day,” Shields said. “Today was the day to celebrate and to take it back.”
Like Abrams, Ferreira knew where the bombs had gone off a year earlier as he neared the finish line.
He looked and saw throngs of people cheering loudly.
“It was so packed. That was the most packed spot,” Ferreira said. “The fans were like, ‘Screw that. We’re going to be there. We’re going to be there cheering louder and harder than we did before.’ ”
(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)