My wife and I have three kids – ages 11, 9, and a soon to be 7. We’ll all be up early Monday. Patriot’s Day. The day of the Boston Marathon. It will be a celebration in our house. It will be a day of remembrance in our home. We will wake and we will watch 36,000 take the line on Main Street in Hopkington. We’ll hear the starting gun announce a brand new beginning. We’ll watch as these people, these athletes, these marathoners,these brave souls travel so much further than the designated race length of 26.2 miles.
My wife and I have watched the Boston Marathon before. Our kids though, this will be their first Boston. They need to watch this race.
They need to cheer and shout and roar for Shalane Flanagan (a fellow Tar Heel). They need to hear my wife and I talk to about the effort and sacrifice that the elite runners give in order to devastate their bodies over 2 plus hours of asphalt hills. We need to tell our children that years of discipline got these incredible runners to the starting line for this one day. This one shot.
They need to see the marathoners barely hold on mile after mile until suddenly, like an epiphany, they realize the well is not dry. They need to see the push, the drive from miles away from the finish. They need to see the risk some of these runners will take with no guarantee of reward. They need to see people not back down from the possibility of failure.
We need them to see people come up short. We need to tell them that over 26.2 miles so much can go wrong. They need to see the anguish on the elite runners faces when that calf cramps at mile 14 and the dream is at best put on hold or at worst over. They need to see when the quads fail at mile 23 and the laurel wreath quite literally runs away. Our kids need to see things go wrong. They need to see what happens. They need to see how people respond to pain and sadness. They need to see that sometimes people fail.
They need to see fire blaze within the marathoners as a million wild Bostonians lining the course inspire the runners as they are inspired by the runners themselves. My kids need to see people cheer wildly for a stranger, cheer as the stranger struggles, cheer because the stranger keeps going, cheer because the stranger could quit – but does not.
My kids need to see people who start the race not as runners but over the miles become runners. Become athletes. Become something new. Become reborn. Become better. They need to see that people can change – if they want to. If they are willing.
They need to see how words can lift spirits, can lift people. My kids need to see the young women from Wellesley College who come out every year and make sure every last runner feels like they are winning the Boston Marathon and maybe get to snag a kiss.
We will watch because my kids need to see how beautiful it is to move. They need to see the joy that breathing because of effort instead of instinct brings. They need to see that competition is good whether it is against another or the clock or against yourself.
They need to see people of all shapes and sizes and colors who speak different languages and worship different Gods and vote for different candidates and root for different teams unite in something that needs no words to explain and all Gods can agree is worthy.
They need to be reminded that last year something terrible happened. They need to to hear the stories and see the memorials and listen to the testimony. They need to know that sometimes people get scared, even their parents. They need to know that evil exists. They need to know that there are more people out there that fight against evil than for it.
They need to know that courage is out there. They need to watch the recovery and rehabilitation of a city and its people. They need to hear about One Fund Boston.
They need to know that Shalane Flanagan was the first one to sign up for this years race and that to us, their parents, it means more that she was the first to the starting line then if she is the first to the finish line.
They need to know that some of our friends are racing. They need to know that some of the Police and Firemen and EMT’s and Doctor’s and Nurses that saved so many lives and protected so many people last year will be running. They need to know that some of those that were hurt so badly last year are running. They need to see bravery.
My kids will watch this one because they need to.
So do I.
And so do you.