Thursday, April 17, 2014

Boston 2013 Through The Eyes Of The Runners - Review of "4:09:43" by Hal Higdon

This week marks the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings.  There have been many moving tributes and services of remembrance, and more are scheduled to follow.  The ultimate tribute will take place on Monday when the world's attention will be focused on the running of the 118th Boston Marathon.  Terrorism has been thwarted once again; fear has been squelched.

Yet the events of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2113 are still fresh in the minds of many of us who were at or near the Finish Line that glorious spring day when two explosions shattered the celebrations that were taking place among those who had completed running Boston.  Hal Higdon, a long time runner and Contributing Editor to Runner's World, has done a masterful job of collecting and curating the on-line reflections of many runners who were on the course for last year's running of the Boston Marathon.

He weaves together vignettes as we follow individual racers through their day - beginning at the hotels, and continuing to Boston Common where runners boarded over 350 buses to head to Hopkinton.  We visit them at the Athletes' Village, the Starting line, and the eight communities through which the 26.2 mile marathon course wends it way.  As part of the narrative of the book, there are many reports of how the runner's experienced the moments before, during, and after the twin explosions threw Boylston Street into chaos.

A quotation near the end of the book captures some of the poignancy of that day and of the runners' recollections:

"[Janeen Bergstrom] had run the marathon listening to her iPod.  Just before making the turn off Hereford and onto Boylston, Bergstrom pushed the forward button, searching for a song to motivate her for the final sprint. 'I was searching for the theme from Rocky,' she would recall,'but could not find it.'  Instead, the song she landed on just before the bombs exploded was 'Stayin' Alive.'" (Page 123)

This book, "4:09:43," makes a major addition to the growing collection of works that have been assembled that help our communities - the Boston community, the running community - come to find some way of dealing with and accommodating the many emotions that run through us on this first anniversary of that signal day.  Healing from such a tragedy is not a sprint - it is an emotional marathon.  This book offers a refreshing cup of cold water along that long race course to healing.

One note to the author and editors, which explains why I have given the book four stars rather than the five it would otherwise have earned. On page 127, the author described the fourth fatality from the day's events as "an MIT security guard."  Officer Sean Collier was a member in good standing of the MIT Police Force - not a security guard.  He deserves to be remembered for who he was, and it is my hope that in subsequent editions of this book this error will be corrected.

Bring on the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.  Boston Strong!


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