Intoxicated by the Crowd’s Energy

By the time I turned the corner of my street, I was feeling dehydrated. Not so much because of the heat–although it was far warmer than I expected it to be. But simply because I had neglected to get enough water throughout the morning. It was too late, however, the run timer was on, and I couldn’t turn back now.

By the time I returned, my lips were bone dry.

Turning the corner, I passed a woman coming up the hill–struggling, slightly, as she ran. I wanted to call out, “You got this,” but it caught in my throat. I felt a little self-conscious, as I am wont to do. I am not much one for cheering and yelling at sporting events–I’m really not one for sports in general.

That said, there had been something in the energy at the Marathon, just a day earlier, of the people running, and the racers high-fiving. Standing outside of the crowd, looking in, I felt snarky and superior. In other words, I felt like my typical self. I had even remarked to a friend not 20 minutes earlier, that one of my big problems with the world of sports is that people are getting paid millions of dollars per year to play a game; meanwhile people who do worthwhile activities, like teach children and keep us safe at night, are struggling to pay their bills. I have described myself as a sports agnostic, “I believe that sports may or may not exist, and don’t much concern myself with their consequences.”

Then, I stood closer to the fence, the resented metal that separated half of Boston from itself for as long as the race ran. I got right in there. I put my hand out for a few high-fives, and was snubbed repeatedly. Apparently I wasn’t quick enough on some, or my energy wasn’t good enough for others, but the passing runners would get the two people next to me, and skip my hand. At first, because I started getting some people. I found myself cheering, calling out for random strangers. I simply allowed myself to be part of the screaming mass of people huddled around the 40k mark. I started to enjoy it, to be intoxicated by the energy.

By the time my friend Sam, who was running in the marathon, came around, I had completely lost my mind. We were yelling and chanting his name, he came by, slowed to a walk, and high-fived each of us in turn, before heading back down the street toward the finish line. I stepped back from the fence, and slipped quickly back into myself. I had tried on the sports persona, and didn’t hate it. but much longer and I would likely suffer an identity crisis.

I kept on past the woman, intending to hit my old home: the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. I hoped the cool breeze off of the water would counteract my impending dehydration. I was also eager to get back to the distance needed for my impending 5k run. Four times between the reservoir and home, my phone let me know it had lost the GPS signal–odd, because there was nothing between me and the sky.

As I finished my turn at the reservoir, I hit Beacon Street for the run home. The marathon itself had largely disappeared at this point. The fence was gone. I had been thinking about that fence, while walking down the length of it, about its implications. Last year, there was no fence, and there was the bombing and the resulting manhunt. This year, there were neither, but I don’t think it was because of this metal fence. The fence was, in my mind, less a symbol of security, and more a symbol of inconvenience.

I was walking down to the Marathon with a friend, who told me she had overheard a conversation between a police officer and a family trying to cross Beacon Street at the marathon route. They told him they needed to cross, in order to visit their ailing grandfather in the hospital, he said he couldn’t let them cross until the flow of runners died down. They asked for alternate routes, and were told to try either Kenmore or further down the T, or hail a cab. They said they couldn’t do either of those, needed to get there fast, and as Orthodox Jews, couldn’t use the T or a cab on that day. They were stuck, and it seemed to me that the fence was causing more problems than it was saving.

The one thing the fence seemed to prevent adequately was “bandit runners.” People who hop into the marathon without a bib, and without authorization, and run the length of the race (give or take wherever they started). My runner friend said there were none of those this year. I hate being this cynical, but I feel like this was the main goal of the fences. and that the inconvenience to me and the Jewish family is the unfortunate fallout. Frankly, I’m not sure that’s worth it.

I finished my half-hour run, and was grateful to get home and chug a bottle of water. The warm weather made the run more pleasant than some, but I was really in need of a shower by the end of it.

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4 thoughts on “Intoxicated by the Crowd’s Energy

  1. As sometimes happens, the marathon this year fell on one of the “yom tov” days of Passover, those days when Orthodox Jews can’t use taxis or public transportation. I feel for the family that had the problem. In general, we try to figure out how we will deal with the issue beforehand. We had friends who offered to let us have lunch and stay with them on the other side of the route if we weren’t going to be able to cross back after going to shul, but as it so happens we were out of town this particular holiday.

    Frankly, I always thought the reason for the barriers was to keep people from getting hit by the runners, and vice-versa.

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