Boston Love

I’ve got a history with the Boston Marathon.

My first memory is sitting in an umbrella stroller, being pushed through crowds and cheering for my father. He’s run the race more times than I can remember. I’ve been there to yell encouragement almost every time.

My two and a half year old twins have joined me on the sidelines the past three years and watched their grandfather run past. These are memories I cherish. This is a family tradition that fills me with so much pride.


The Schmidtlets and I spent weeks practicing our cheers. “Go, runners, go!” “You can do it!” “You’ve got this!” “You look great!”

I’m that spectator, the one who doesn’t stop cheering. My voice gives out before my enthusiasm. My hands get chapped from clapping. The people with names on their arms, legs, shirts are my favorite, because then I can cheer for them specifically. Yesterday a fellow watcher turned to me and said, “You know, I thought you knew all those people… I’m just realizing you’re reading their names.” We shared a laugh and then she joined me in shouting encouragement to individuals.

There are those runners that make you laugh with their costumes (hamburgers, business suits, wedding dresses, bumble bee) – the ones that make you teary-eyed (running for Sandy Hook, In memory of, “I’m so proud of my wife —>”) And there are the military who march past with heavy packs and quiet dignity that make me so proud to be an American.

There is the anxiety of checking my father’s pace and progress on my phone as I stand on the sidelines and wait for him to run past—doing mental math and calculating whether or not he’s on track to qualify to run again next year.

And there’s the happy-sigh contentedness of spending the day with cousins, aunts, loved ones and strangers – in an environment of positivity and comradeship. It’s no wonder I make a pilgrimage back to MA each year to be a part of race history. It’s no surprise that I wanted the Schmidtlets to have this event be part of their personal history.

Running this race is an act of love. Standing on the sidelines in weather conditions that vary from hypothermia to heatstroke is an act of throwing love at those athletes.

Every one of those runners has a story. Boston isn’t a marathon you luck into. It’s one you work hard to qualify for. It’s one you train for through New England winters of sub-zero temps and sidewalks hidden below ice, sleet, and snow. It’s one that throws hills and more and more hills beneath your sneakers. There’s a reason it’s famous for Heartbreak Hill.

Yesterday it broke my heart.

I’m not ready to process the terror of the moments when I couldn’t get through to my father’s cell phone. The stretched-out minutes of silence when I went through every word of our last conversation—him having recently finished the race and waiting in the area for a buddy who was still running. Or the exhalation of hearing he was okay. The bone-melt relief of hearing his voice. Then the stinging anxiety of hearing stories of more bombs found and knowing he was still in the city trying to meet up with his friend. The post-adrenaline exhaustion of him finally arriving back home.

I’m not sure how to work through the thoughts that I HAD THE TWINS THERE. That I took them to an event that was bombed. That something I  did, choices I made placed them at an act of terror.

They’re safe. They’re fine. I understand that. I do.


And it’s that but that kills me. The but will I take them next year. The but how is anything safe?  The buts and what ifs and what nows? The fact that I’m an anxious parent to begin with and now danger feels like it’s hovering in every sandbox and shadow.

It’s the fact that there were children there who aren’t fine. That all my prayers and grief and heart-deep wishing can’t change that or make things easier for their parents. It’s the runners and spectators and race personnel who won’t ever run again.

It’s the fact that this will never make sense.

AND it’s the fact that people ran toward the explosions to help the wounded instead of running away.

It’s the people who opened their houses to stranded runners, offering them food and water and places to stay.

It’s the fact that Red Cross could announce within hours of the explosions that they had more than enough blood because volunteers had queued up so quickly.

It’s the fact that there were 27,000 runners, 500,000 spectators, countless stories of triumph, humanity, compassion… and ONE act of evil.

I’m not sure how to do that math on that, but I’m sure about one thing: good wins. It overcomes.

Love is stronger than hate.

And I won’t let an act of redefine my past, taint my memories, or direct my future.

I love this city. I love this race. I love those runners. I love those spectators.

I love.

And I’ll be on the sidelines next year throwing love at those runners.

36 Replies to “Boston Love”

  1. “Running this race is an act of love. Standing on the sidelines in weather conditions that vary from hypothermia to heatstroke is an act of throwing love at those athletes.”

    Yes yes yes. Cheering at the marathon is my favorite annual activity, and you’ve summed up exactly why. Let’s throw love even harder in 2014.

    1. Annie, it’s always been my favorite too! Those 2014 runners better get ready, because we’re going to shower them with love and support!

  2. This made me cry at the coffee shop.

    You are a wonderful mama, and a wonderful daughter, and a wonderful human. I am so lucky to have you as a friend. So grateful you and the boys and your dad are safe.

    1. Awww, Jess! No crying in coffee shops. The twins were talking about the race today: “I see’d Cuppie run! He run fast! Race so fun!” It made me so glad to hear that they have only happy associations with the Marathon.

      And even more determined that I’m not going to let the evil actions of a few men ruin it for me either. <3

    1. Thanks, Joanne! The past week has made me feel so lucky and so proud to be a Bostonian (by birth, if not by current geography!)

  3. My very first thought when I heard about the bomb … The Schmidlets!!!!! I grew up in Newton, not far from Heartbreak Hill. I feel your pain. I’ll miss you this week just because it’s so crazy busy at my house, but I’m reaching out with a hug for you and your family. I’ll catch you next time you’re in town <3

    1. Thanks, Gina. I’m feeling very blessed that all of my loved ones are safe, and grieving along with the rest of MA for those who are not.

      I’m sorry our paths didn’t cross this trip — consider the Schmidtlets hugged from you and pass along my XO’s to yours.

  4. You just made me sob my eyes out. I’m never going to understand why people want to hurt humans, people they don’t know, INNOCENTS. It’s horrifying how people can be that cruel, especially with the lives of children there. There are NO words. Like my friend said–they’re tainting the tradition of the marathon. It’s heartbreaking.

    1. I think it’s the fact that we would NEVER be able to commit such acts of evil that makes it so hard to process why other people would. It doesn’t make sense, Nikki, and it never will. And no matter what evidence comes to light or what the suspect says, we won’t understand it.

      I’m doing my best to focus on the HOPE instead of the terror. To take comfort in all the love and generosity and compassion and prayer and support I’ve seen pouring in and out of Boston this week. *hugs, sweetheart*

  5. Glad you are all ok! I didn’t realize that you had such a history with the Boston Marathon. A powerful, humbling thought that no one is safe anywhere, but that we can’t let that direct our futures. We can only live fully and love deeply. Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks, Gabija! You’re absolutely right that we just need to live fully and love deeply! That’s a great way of putting it <3

  6. This post gave me chills and want to give you hugs. So glad you’re all safe, and you absolutely must be there next year. The Marathon wouldn’t be the same without you there. <3 <3 <3

  7. Awesome story Tiff. It captures the sentiments that I have heard from dozens of people. It takes a hero to face danger, be scared but fight that fear and go back. If we do that, we win, the bad guys lose and the Boston Marathon and community grows stronger.

    I’ll be there with you next year – out there running with Nick.

    Love you!!

    1. I’m glad you’ll be out there running, Dad! It wouldn’t be race day without you <3

  8. Beautifully written, you articulated what so many of us feel but aren’t able to put into words! We will be there next year yelling even louder for your Dad!

  9. I cannot begin to tell you how many people I’ve forwarded this to, including a number of people I work with in our Boston office. Thank you.

  10. Perfectly put. The “Buts” can be haunting. You are right though that because we love the city, the marathon, the people running, everything it encompasses and touches, we will not let it fade. Love you!

  11. Tiffany,
    I am touched by your words. I thought of your Dad (my mom’s cousin) when this awful event unfolded. I was even more worried when I tracked his time and knew he had to have been close. I am so glad you and your family are okay. And I am even more proud of you all for wanting to return next year! You are proof that we ARE Boston strong!

  12. Tiffany – I went to high school with your Dad. I’ve been in Maryland for 37 years. I finally found out today that your Dad is safe, although I figured that was, indeed, the case. I did not know for sure. I followed the link in his posting to yours. You have touched my heart. Thank you so much for putting your observations online.
    – Joe Ricci, CHSE 1971

  13. Just saw the link posted on Help in the Nick of Time FB page. What a beautiful, truly moving post. Glad for your wonderful Boston Marathon memories! I worked with your dad at Chipcom a long time ago. We ran together many times at work. I ran Boston 3x before moving to CA. I understand what you mean about being there with your twins. My son, AJ, was 2 1/2 and we were in Boston on the weekend before 9/11, booked on a flight to SF on 9/11. I changed the flight the night before to 9/12 to stay in Boston and spend one more day with my dad. When we finally were able to fly out and I was at Logan with AJ, it was the same anxious feelings.

    All our love to you and all of your family! I’ve been rooting Dave on for many years and wish him an awesome Boston 2014! Coming up soon!

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