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Mike Benge April 17, 2013 TWEET COMMENTS 3

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I was amazed at what I saw while I ran to Boston from Hopkinton. Every mile of the course was lined with fans! I have never run an event that had so much support, crowds, cheering and throngs of people. I can only imagine the amount of support and unity that this tragic turn of events will create.

There is no reason to scurry back to the remote trails I usually tread, but to stand firm and support all those who were injured and who lost loved ones at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon.

 

GABRIELLE ELISSA ORSI, 36, of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is a system administrator for Colorado Mountain College.

 

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Gabrielle Elissa Orsi on Hope Pass at the 2010 TransRockies Run, Colorado.

This year, I wasn't aiming to race the Boston Marathon—I was just going to use it as a training run for the Vermont 100-mile race in July, and soak it all in. I'm grateful that I managed to complete the race just a few minutes before the bombing, and that I was in a rush to leave the finish area. I had a massage appointment at 2:40 p.m. that I was late for, which seems so petty now. I was able to catch my flight home to Denver later that day. I'm saddened by the tragedy, and shaken too by my close brush with the murderous intentions of the still-unknown perpetrator(s).

It's hard to describe what it feels like to prepare day after day, often alone, for a difficult event months away, like the Boston Marathon. On race day, though, the solitude is over: tens of thousands of people are lining the streets to cheer you on and you're joined by 27,000 other runners. What makes Boston a special race—besides the fact that it's been held for 117 years and attracts the best runners in the world—is that there are continuous crowds for 26.2 miles. The race course is jammed with cheering spectators. That's why so many runners run marathon after marathon trying to get that magic "BQ, " Boston qualifying time.

When you're running the Boston Marathon, you feel like a rock star! If you've never run it or been in Boston on Patriots Day, let me tell you what it's like:

Thousands of ordinary people reach out their hands over barricades along the race course to touch you and high-five you. If you write your name on your shirt, everyone yells it. I had forgotten to do that so people yelled for "Number 16775!" and "Zoom Zoom!" (a logo on my shirt) .

Little kids lean out eagerly from the sidewalk trying to hand you candy, orange slices, popsicles ... I ran past one family that had set up a trampoline on their front lawn and they all were jumping up on it with pom-poms while blasting music. There was party after party along the route with people holding up signs ("Bee-ahs in 20 miles, " "#bawstonlovesyou,” "You Think Running Is Hard, My Arms Are Killing Me From Holding This Sign, " "We're Proud of You, Total Stranger" and countless signs rooting for "Mom," "Dad," and other runners' names).

There are charity groups in matching outfits standing by the side of the road cheering runners raising funds to fight cancer, melanoma, heart disease, liver disease--thousands of entries are reserved for runners affiliated with a charity. Along the route, spired churches have signs with Bible quotes. My memory encompasses blind runners running with guides. People in wheelchairs competing in the race. I ran past a mom running while pushing her child in a wheelchair.

Families set up their own little "aid stations" and hand out cups of lemonade and Twizzlers from tables in their yards. A high-school band was playing in full uniform. A group of a dozen African drummers drumming. A bagpiper piping. A bluegrass band is a blurry memory at the side of the road around mile 17—I remember a woman was playing the washboard by stroking it with a giant metal spoon while the banjo player plucked furiously.

Around mile 18, at Heartbreak Hill, college kids throwing house parties and wearing crazy outfits (tutus, pilgrims) offer you cold beer. Someone had written messages in chalk on the course and drawn big hearts on the road up the famous hill. There are local businesses with handmade signs (my favorite was a hardware store with giant mirrors: "Runners! Check out your style here!" My style was ... sweaty).

I ran past identical twin sisters running in matching orange-and-black outfits. Soldiers marched the race course in full camouflage uniform with packs. And I passed a group of friends all dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz—written on their backs: "THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE BOSTON!"

The road unwinds before you, heading east and down to the sea. (See the course in under three minutes!)

Each mile and kilometer mark is permanently painted on the road.

 



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