#BostonStrongTO (West End) Recap

I woke up on April 22nd and looked at the newspaper.  The Boston bombing and subsequent aftermath and investigation etc. still dominated the headlines.  “It’s been a week... only 7 days.” I thought to myself.  It felt like longer, so much had happened in those seven days, yet I still hadn't had the chance to really commemorate the victims, the survivors, and runners of every stripe.  Until that day.  I'd been looking forward to this for the past few days - the ever awesome PavementRunner kicked off a #BostonStrong event for any city that felt like it, and Phaedra from Blisters And Black Toenails took up the organizational torch.  While I had run a mile with the boys the day after the bombing, I still wanted to do this one because:

  1. Running with other people, especially those united in a message like this one, really underscores how running is a community, and frankly, too much of how I engage with that community is merely over the internet, and not in person
  2. High Park is pretty.

Evening events are ones I often have to skip since they collide with dinner and bedtime for the kids, but both my wife and I are runners, and we both feel emotionally affected by the tragedy, so while wrapping the entire family up in this thing wasn't quite a no-brainer, it was something we both wanted.

I found myself getting inspired, and the next thing I knew, I was plotting a way to add a soundtrack to the event.  I packed a stereo we used to stick in the back of our Chariot to blast out music during the Levac Attack, and I knew I had a Neil Diamond CD so we could play Sweet Caroline (the unofficial Red Sox anthem) and I grabbed a few extra Dropkick Murphys songs for the iPod (which docks into the stereo).  I modified a #BostonStrong bib Phaedra provided to use the numbers 416 and 905 (the most common area codes for the Greater Toronto Area), and figured we'd attach them to the stroller.


After picking up the family and heading over to the Grenadier Restaurant parking lot.  People were asked to wear the Blue and Yellow of the Boston Marathon; in our case, my wife wore the yellow, and I wore the blue - both from previous years of the Sporting Life 10K (which she is doing again this year).  I was a little surprised to see how many people had actual Boston Marathon gear on... these were serious runners who had qualified and run the world’s most prestigious marathon in the past.

When the official start time hit, Phaedra thanked everyone for coming, and mentioned how we were all in solidarity of those that wouldn't have been able to finish their marathons.  It was a short speech, and soon the mass of blue and yellow was off.  It took us an extra 10 seconds to get the kids strapped in, so we were at the back, and we were not going to be gaining much ground on the group.  Phaedra hung back at the first curve to make sure we were doing alright, but overall, the group was leaving us behind.  I had thought the course was meant to take us North out of High Park for a few blocks, but just shy of the entrance the pack turned back making the route a nice loop back.  The loop closed back near the restaurant making one lap just over a mile, which was where we lost sight of everybody.  

Courtesy of Blistersandblacktoenails.blogspot.com

I'm not going to lie, that irked me a little bit; maybe everyone who runs Boston is fast, but I thought the idea of being in it together was an important one, and I had come a fair distance and kept my kids up past their regular dinner and bedtimes for this, hoping that the crowd would provide them a little bit of distraction.  Still, as a family, we were going to stick this out and finish our planned 5k.  It’s their loss, since they didn't get to hear my sweet tunes.

Shark Boy is 3 years old and had a lot of questions about what we were doing, and that in addition to the natural inquisitiveness of that age, is not shy about garnishing his investigations with the ubiquitous “why?”.  I tried to explain that Boston was a city, and a lot of people were sad there, and we wanted to show them that they didn't have to be - sue me for trying to keep things simple, and some details I simply didn't want him being exposed to.  The next thing I know, I’m saying that some bad men had hurt a lot of people; I still thought I was within safe territory, but then he asked HOW the bad men had hurt the people.  Oof.

The way it was working out, it would take 3 laps to finish the 5km.  The Lightning Kid was starting to get impatient (i.e. tired, fussy, hungry) with the whole thing, and the last lap was pretty much a torture of screaming.  We split up so I could get him back to the parking lot faster, while Shark Boy tried his hand at running about a half kilometer.  His enthusiasm warmed my heart with pride, but I think we need to teach him about pacing if he wants to last as long as a kilometer.  He also needs to learn about watching his step, since he tripped within the first 10 strides.  He would have made better time if he hadn't stopped for “hug breaks” with his mother; I can’t hold that against him, in fact, he may have discovered a new running method! Imagine instead of walk breaks or water stations along a race, you could get a hug from your mom... maybe you'd get a personal best!

The Grenadier Restaurant kept their cafe/snack bar section open long enough to feed us, and then we packed it all in and got the kids home for a late bedtime routine.  I'm still sad and sorry for what happened on April 15th 2013, but if I can take a little solace in something that came from that day, it’s that it gave me an opportunity to make April 22nd 2013 a special day.

For a recap from within 'the pack' head over to Blisters and Black Toenails.

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