It felt like an out-of-body experience, one in which I forgot where I was for a split second. I felt transported to a realm where nothing mattered other than the positive vibes that filled me up from every discernible direction. I had always heard of the heart of the city of Boston, but I had never quite experienced it like this, not even when I went for a game in the cradle of America’s pastime, Fenway Park—no number of “Sweet Caroline’”could amount to what it was like to stand on Comm. Ave. during the Marathon.
Let me backtrack a bit first. This was my first Marathon (but wait Juan, you’re a sophomore, what about last year?). The year before I was bedridden with a fever the entire day, so I had to experience the event vicariously through my friends’ excessively extensive Snapchat stories—the terrible weather of last April did nothing to dent the excitement surrounding the student body on that day. Through them I got a glimpse of what it would be like, a day that I had been excited about since I had confirmed my enrollment here at Boston College during my senior year of high school.
I would have to patiently wait for my chance, hoping I would not pick up a cold the day before again.
When the day finally got here, I did what most of the student body does on that day: sleep in until 10:30 a.m., and make it down just in time to see the leaders go by, except that’s not what happened at all. You all get the picture: waking up at the break of dawn, getting ready right away, and at latest begin the celebrations at 7:30 a.m. After eventually making it down with all of my roommates, we perched ourselves against the barriers and waited for runners to go by.
Every time runners were about to run by you could hear —no, you could feel them approaching—the wall of sound that surrounded every single runner was palpable in the crisp, April air. It was an ideal setting for what is essentially a holiday in the city: I could feel the warm rays of the sun hitting my skin, tanning it just enough to finally differentiate myself from Casper, a few clouds popped up here and there in the baby-blue sky, surrounded by what felt like the entire student body.
But the most significant thing I felt that day was not the event itself, but the people. After the leaders went by, we had a bit of a break until the mass of runners reached Heartbreak Hill at Mile 21.
When they started passing us, undoubtedly experiencing physical pain I could never imagine, one thing struck me: the vast majority of runners had smiles on their faces, enjoying every single moment of this experience, taking in that everyone there was there for the same thing—to cheer them on.
I noticed another thing—a lot of the runners also had names on their bodies. It took me a while to realize that most of them were not their own names, but rather the names of the people they were running for. This struck me deeply, remembering a specific someone who continues to mean an incredible amount to me, but, due to the circumstances of life, is no longer with me.
I was immediately overcome with emotion at this time, struggling to keep a straight face. I don’t think anyone noticed the turmoil boiling inside me, the conflicting emotions ricocheting in my soul. In what felt like half an hour, but was actually probably closer to seventy-five seconds, I felt utter loss, desperation, loneliness, but most significantly, immense joy and hope.
I connected with this event in a way I could never have imagined. I thought of the events that took place in April of 2013, not only how the city was impacted, but how it managed to unify everyone in it, healing through support.
After this moment, I felt as though my emotions were all purged, and I could begin the day again with a clean slate, one that was filled only with the joy and love of everyone around me. I had waited almost two years for this day. It was unlike anything I could have hoped for in so many different ways. But most importantly, I experienced something truly real, and, at least in my mind, shared a moment of fraternal love with the thousands of runners that ran past me.
Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor