May 06, 2014
We thank the Portland Marathon for permission to reprint this article.
Larry Wilson ’75 is a family law attorney in San Francisco and serves on the Law School’s Board of Visitors.
We are proud to introduce Larry Wilson, a well-known attorney and runner from San Francisco. Last year Larry was one of the runners who was unable to finish Boston. During the next twelve months he continued to run marathons and wore his Boston running number on his back in all of those events. Larry has written a truly inspirational message about his journey with his Boston number. We are proud to share that article with you.
Larry finished Boston last week… his 99th marathon. This last Sunday he finished his 100th marathon by finishing The Big Sur Marathon.
Larry will join us in Portland to run our Marathon on October 5th. We hope you will join him as “The Number” continues its journey.
The Long Road Home
by Runner #23902
4/15/13 - Something obviously was wrong. Grim-faced BAA. course officials were blocking Commonwealth Avenue at the 35K mark. Barricades were completely blocking the roadway. “The race is over” we were told. “Go home.” “Easier said than done”, each stranded runner thought silently. “Home” - for any marathoner healthy and fit enough to finish before the course closes - is the “finish line”, nothing else.
Someone asked, “Where can we go?” “Go anywhere you want” an official replied, “but don’t take one step closer to Boston”. Thus in an instant, the 2013 Boston Marathon suddenly ended for more than 5,000 runners, myself included. Some runners were mere feet from the finish line and facing grave dangers in the zone of peril. Others - including myself - were miles from the terror events and comparatively safe.
Something was stolen from all who didn’t finish that day. We never reached Home.
Who am I? I’m just an ordinary runner - you know, one of the nameless and uncountable thousands of runners who never stand on the victor’s podium. - I blend right in to that river of people who finish hours behind the winners before the course shuts down. Who am I? I’m #23902!
4/20/14 - More than a full year has passed since last April. The 2014 Boston Marathon is tomorrow and for nearly 5,000 of us who didn’t finish last year, we amazingly have been invited to return and given another chance by BAA to get Home. My gratitude for that decision is infinite. BAA. will “leave no runner behind”.
It’s been a very long journey back to Hopkinton. My 2013 Boston Bib Number, #23902, has been pinned to the back of my racing jersey in twelve different marathons since last April. It has successfully crossed all twelve finish lines. Bart Yasso took a picture of #23902 in September at the Half Moon Bay Marathon where he was the official host. He Tweeted that picture to more than 40,000+ followers. Jeff and Barbara Galloway literally bumped into #23902 just last month in Rome. Runners everywhere on seeing #23902 have been moved to words, tears, anger and every emotion in the book. It’s just a bib - a tiny piece of paper - but it was actually on the Boston course last year when the calamitous events occurred. People touch this piece of paper. They are moved. Many cry.
What is going to happen tomorrow? I don’t know. But here’s what I’ve learned about our sport in this long and seemingly endless year.
There’s no knowing what will happen in any race much less in Boston - but this is Boston - and it’s a very different Boston from the place where so many of were halted and stranded last year. Tomorrow, my 2014 Boston bib number will be pinned to the front of my shirt but #23902 will be pinned to its familiar place on my back.
Will #23902 finally cross the finish line on Boylston Street? Don’t ask. Before tomorrow afternoon there’s no knowing outcomes. This is marathoning. Anything can happen. Suffice it to say that the plan is to do everything possible tomorrow and finally finish the long journey Home.
I’ll be joining 36,000 other athletes - each with compelling and unique stories, most of which will never be chronicled - and together we will be competing in a unique race that will be both a memorial for the dead and injured as well as a celebration of the forces of good and decency that are reclaiming primacy in our sport. When terrorists attacked the Boston Marathon in 2013, they chose the wrong sport, the wrong town and the wrong race. Runners connected deeply with one another worldwide after these events. We were bloodied, our innocence and naïveté were crushed, and security was suddenly paramount. In short this sport grew up overnight.
In this new world, while security has suddenly become every race director’s overriding concern, innocence and plain old fashioned fun have not and never will disappear from running. It’s sad that security cannot be taken for granted but the full spectrum of joys for participants and spectators alike will never go away.
Why? This is our sport. Boston is our town. This race is our race. You cannot take these things from us - they are ours. Nor can you define the running community - we choose to define ourselves.
Who are we? We are every race number in the deck. We are runners and we are winners - all of us, fast and slow alike. Events may delay us, but life and health permitting, we finish the things we begin. This is what we do. This is who we are.
Tomorrow we run for the victims of these senseless events from last year but we also run to reclaim this sport, this city and this race for runners everywhere. Fellow runners - run well.
4/21/14 - The finish line on Boylston Street has finally come into plain view. There it is. The Forum Restaurant is coming up on my left. I’m compelled to stop and say a prayer for the bombing victims where Bomb #2 exploded. Similarly, there’s another mandatory stop and another prayer right in front of Marathon Sports where the first bomb went off. It’s far more important to stop and pay respects for those three souls whose life journeys ended right here one year ago and to pay respects for the hundreds who were so gravely injured than it is to sprint towards the finish line.
I’ve been trying to cross 2013 Boston Marathon finish line for one year, six days and several hours now. I can spare the time - and I will. It’s just part of closing out every thread of this previously unfinished business.
OK. Now, to the finish line.
Not all of the 5,000+ runners could be here today hence many were unable to complete their own journeys. Many will finish their own unfinished business in other ways or in years to come right here in Boston and I envision all will be successful in time. But right now, for the rest of the stranded runners from 2013, our long trip Home is done.