By Nick Hilton
To describe the 2014 Boston Marathon as an emotional roller coaster would be a gross understatement.
The word “drama” is defined as an exciting, emotional, or unexpected series of events or set of circumstances.
I don’t think there is a more fitting word in the English language to describe the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Last year, last week even, if you would have told me that an American woman would run 2:22 at Boston, and NOT win, and a 38 year old American man would outrun the fastest field ever assembled in Hopkinton, I would have straight up laughed in your face.
Let’s take a moment and think about this.
Then, let’s take another, because one moment isn’t quite enough.
Then you should probably take one more. And then smile, because if you were watching this morning, than you witnessed nothing short of history.
Here are the facts: Meb Keflezghi, an Eritrean immigrant, naturalized U.S. citizen, the epitome of the American dream, broke away from a record-fast field, ran a 31 second PR, and became the first American to win the Boston Marathon since 1985.
I believe that I experienced the full range of human emotions during Meb’s final mile into downtown Boston.
Every time the camera angle changed I gasped because it looked like Chebet was closing. Then I would breathe a sigh of relief because he looked far away. Far too often, Meb would look back and I would shout to the screen “STOP LOOKING BACK”. Then, Meb would grimace and I would bury my head in my hands.
Sometimes his turnover would look effortless; occasionally it looked like he was walking through mud.
Meb was clearly suffering, and so was everybody else glued to their TV’s for his final march down Boylston Street.
Then, with a few hundred meters to go, he smiled, and his fist pumped to the wildly cheering crowd. And of course you would smile back, and the emotion would begin to swell up.
We all remember the horrific bombings last year, we all remember the terror and confusion. The empty, numb feeling. The nagging question, “why would someone commit such a senseless act?”
But there was always hope. In our hearts, we knew we could prevail. We’ve done it before.
Then Meb crossed the line, arms to the sky, triumph on his face. The emotion that has been building up for over 3 hours of marathoning, finally boils over.
We watched the courageous effort of the hometown girl trying to bring back the title to a wounded city, but falling short despite an incredible push.
We saw Shalane’s tears and felt a small amount of her pain.
We wanted to pat her on the back and tell her, “next year, Shalane”, and thank her for effort.
We were watching when Meb stormed to the lead and never relinquished it.
We were also watching the lead slowly dwindle from over a minute, down to an agonizingly close six seconds.
We watched the most torturous mile that I have ever watched.
And we saw Meb cross the line and look to the sky in exultation.
We breathed a sigh of relief. We cried, we laughed, we gasped, and we cheered. We were relieved, because Boston was cleansed.
After the events of 2013 the Boston Marathon was sullied. It was also gravely wounded. And maybe the city will never truly heal, maybe some wounds cut too deep. But regardless of its depth, a wound can always be cleansed.
We can thank Shalane, Meb, and the 36,000 other runners who toed that line today for helping wipe clean the dirt of 2013.
And we can look back on the 2014 Boston Marathon as a celebration of the overwhelming essence and tenacity of the human spirit.
Nick Hilton is a manager at Run Flagstaff in Flagstaff, Arizona where he trains as a professional distance runner. He is a 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, and a member of Team Run Flagstaff Pro. He competes in distances ranging from the mile to the marathon. Follow him on Twitter @Nackhilton and on his personal blog The Moderately Talented Distance Runner.