While the bombings that occurred alongside the finish of last year’s Boston Marathon gripped the entire nation, they had a special resonance in the running community.
After the shock and sorrow had been processed, many runners were left wondering if all the things that made the Boston Marathon the pinnacle of running for so many dedicated amateurs would be forever overshadowed by the horrific incident.
Writer and runner Hal Higdon has written a book aimed at reclaiming the Boston Marathon for those who have run it and those who aspire to. The book, “4:09:43,” is compiled of accounts from more than 75 runners, many of whom Higdon had coached long-distance or who had followed his popular training plans.
In their words, Higdon recounts the “other” events of last April 15 — the ordinary acts that precede running a marathon. In their descriptions of checking the weather, riding the bus to the starting line in Hopkinton and making their way through the crowded streets along the way to Boston, the runners emphasize the aspects of the Boston Marathon that won’t be changed by the 2013 tragedy.
Higdon brings a unique background to the book. He wrote the definitive history of the Boston Marathon for its centennial and also has written about crime, including a book on the Leopold and Loeb murders.
Three quarters of the book unfolds before the race clock clicked past four hours, with runners describing their preparations, their apprehensions about the race ahead of them and then their exhilaration as the exuberant crowd of spectators cheered them on.
“From the start, the crowd support was unlike anything I had experienced before,” said Shalane Flanagan, an elite American elite runner and contender for the women’s title in 2013. “Each mile I ran, my heart filled more with the support of the crowd.”
It was the enthusiasm of runners like Flanagan and the spectators that Higdon wanted to chronicle, not to deny the horror near the finish line but to document why so many people were there in the first place.