Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What the Boston Marathon means to New Englanders: an explaination for the rest of the world.

Growing up on Cape Cod, there are a few facts of life that seemed universal; alcohol came from a package store, pizza topped with linguicia was common, and spring came every year, sometime between Easter and Patriots' Day.  When I left home and befriended other students from across the country, I was surprised how unique these things were.  I know some of you are wondering what a "packie" is, and if linguicia is any good (it's incredible!), but unfortunately, if you've been following the news, you probably now know of Patriots' Day for all the wrong reasons.  However, I'm not sure you fully grasp the concept, what it means to a native New Englander, and why people like me (a transplant to NYC with no real ties to the Boston metro area, other than a love of Boston sports teams) are taking this tragedy particularly hard.

Public schools in Massachusetts are closed every 3rd Monday in April, to commemorate the battles of Lexington and Concord (which are generally considered to be the real start of the American Revolution).  As a kid, Easter and St. Patrick's Day fly right by, but Patriot's day marked the beginning of spring break.  There could be a blizzard on Easter or St. Pat's, (hell, I even remember an April Fools Day storm that dropped over a foot of snow on The Cape!) but by Patriots' Day, it would definitely be springtime.  Every kid new it.  We waited for it since the end of winter break and cherished it, knowing it would be our last breather till summer.

The Boston Marathon is run on Patriots' Day.  Every year, or at least as long as I can remember, Marathon Monday.  Amongst long distance runners, the marathon is a premier event, known for it's tough, hilly, windings, from Hopkinton to the center of Boston, "heart break hill", (the last big hill before the city) being the marathon world's fiercest adversary.  I didn't need to wikipedia this.  I just know this shit.  Not because I have an incredible memory, or follow long distance running, but because I grew up watching the race every year.  Every year.  Plopped down on my couch, listening to Chet and Natalie drone on about a marathon, possible the most boring spectator sport there could be.  But it was a big deal because it was our Rose Bowl, our Kentucky Derby, and our Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and our Vernal Equinox, all rolled into one.

The NYC marathon is important.  It's a big event.  But it's a big event in a city FULL of big events.  It's on the weekend, when most of my friends are nursing hangovers, or going to yoga, or nursing hangovers at yoga, and though I stumbled down one year to watch the runners make their way over a cigarette butt-lined stretch of Bedford Avenue, I can't say I'll be marking it on my calendar in the future.  Last year's was cancelled due to Superstorm Sandy (it's been a bad year for marathons in the Northeast, to say the least), and outside of a couple of grumblings, and the disappointment of those who had trained to run, the whole thing passed like any other bump in the road.  In Boston, it would have devastated us.  Not because Bostonians are weak, (though neither group might want to admit it, New Yorkers and Bostonians are way more alike then they are different), but because it's the only big thing we have.  Because it's the embodiment of our package stores, and rotaries, and white clam chowder (the way it was goddamn intended to be), and it's the f'ing hot dog buns sliced on the top, and it's...  it's us.

I understand that there will be, for lack of a better term, lunatics, who will from time to time do things like this.  I understand there will be misguided individuals who are brainwashed into thinking that acts of violence help their religion, or political struggle, or whatever.  The deeper reasons behind these violent acts, we may never fully understand.  I guess I just want to make sure that you understand what the Boston Marathon meant to a kid who grew up on The Cape, and was in love with springtime.          


  1. I feel so sorry for the victims of todays carnage, the little kids who were killed or severely injured or permanetly maimed, the adults those killed and maimed, the families who are dealing with the loss of their family member. I send my heartfelt sympathies to the families of the ones who passed, for the little children who lost some of their innocence today, for all of Boston who is still reeling from the horror. Please know people do care about you and your beautiful city.

  2. That's so nice of you Rahul, thanks.