Watching the Boston Marathon 2000 (cont.)
Standing in the crowd, you really don't know what's happening in the race. You just have your little peephole to watch what's right in front of you. Two seconds later, it's different. And you're doing it shoulder to shoulder with neighbors and strangers.
One thing you can tell in advance is when the lead male and female runners are nearing. The local television stations like to cover them, so they use helicopters to relay the video feeds from the motorcycles and trucks back to the stations. An approaching helicopter means the lead woman is nearing:
Helicopter relaying TV signals
I crossed Comm Ave to get a different view. Since the first woman was the 28th person to cross the finish line, a little over 15 minutes after the first man, the field was nice and sparse at this point to give me time to cross without blocking any runner. Here you can see a motorcade, led by a motorcycle, a wheelchair racer, another Jeep with the timer, the TV truck, and even balloons left over from the finish line in the day before's children's race:
Motorcade before lead woman
The lead woman whisks by, followed by another motorcycle with a person holding a TV camera:
Lead woman comes into view
Whoosh! It all goes by. Here's a view up the hill of the whole entourage: vehicles, cameras, and runner. So much technology for such a basic sport! I always wonder how the motorcycle cameraperson keeps from falling.
Lead woman and TV pack continue up the hill
A few seconds later other women go by. Irina Bogacheva, number F10 in the blue and yellow, went on to come in second, with a huge kick in the end of the race that resulted in a photofinish. She beat out the third place finisher by inches. It took several minutes of examining videotapes to decide. The lead person here didn't win.
Other lead women
Now that the leads were taken care of, it was time for the real fun of watching the race: cheering on everybody else who didn't expect to win.
As you stand or walk around, you run into people you haven't seen in months or years. The Marathon brings us all together in a big, common, event trying to pour out our energy to help the runners. Runners say the huge crowds, constantly cheering, really help them.
Slowly but surely the density of runners increases. I move back to my side of the street so I can leave to get to a meeting at work.
People stand for hours, cheering. Just clapping and yelling "Go! Go! You can do it!" gets a little boring and impersonal, so people search out identifying words or pictures on the runners' clothes. "Go MIT! Go Stephen!"
Cheering, often by name or affiliation. You can tell what Stephen Ruszczyk of New York wanted us to yell (I looked him up in the list by his bib number)
Others are waiting for particular friends and loved ones who know where they'll be waiting.
Signs to cheer for friends and family
Many people run for a cause. Lots of people near our street corner were fighting for a cure for ALS:
Solidarity with a cause
For 20 years now, Dick Hoyt pushes his son Rick, who has cerebral palsy, in a wheelchair the whole way. He finished in 3 hours and 8 minutes. You can tell they're coming by the rise in cheering. Here's a picture I took last year as he zoomed by:
Dick and Rick Hoyt
Unfortunately, I didn't get to stay that long this year. Runners continued to come by for hours, and people continued to cheer.
I hope I was able to give you a flavor of what it's like to watch the Boston Marathon in the middle of Heartbreak Hill. For more information, you can check out the official web site from the Boston Athletic Association and Boston.com's marathon web site, among others.
-Dan Bricklin, April 2000
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