I’m writing this post this morning as I watch the news unfold in Boston of local police working to capture the 19-year-old suspect-at-large in the Boston Marathon bombings. It feels like a crazy-awful capstone to a crazy-awful week.
The one exception, of course, was last night’s solidarity run for Boston here in Philly. I’m really sorry if you weren’t able to make it because, as I said on Twitter last night, it was probably the most amazing, most uplifting event I have ever participated in.
It’s hard to describe the electricity of it all, but I’ll do my best: It was all the excitement of the Broad Street Run mixed with an extra measure of camaraderie, lots of high-fives, shouts of “BOOOSTON! BOOOSTON!,” and more fun with strangers than I have ever had in my life. I started the night at the Art Museum where a few running groups were supposed to gather. I’ll admit, I was a tad concerned when, at 6:59, only about 20 of us had shown up—we were supposed to leave for City Hall at 7—but then all of a sudden we heard shouts and whoops and, when we turned to look, saw an army of runners coming down the Schuylkill Trail from Lloyd Hall.
“Let’s go!” someone shouted, and we were off, an even bigger army clad in Boston Marathon blue and yellow, heading down the Ben Franklin Parkway.
When we got to City Hall at about 7:10, at least a hundred people were there already. For the next 25 minutes, runners poured into the courtyard, received with shouts and claps and cheers. There was a short presentation by Philadelphia Runner’s Ryan Callahan, who organized the entire event, and then around 7:40 we all left, en masse, for a half-mile run down Market Street to the Liberty Bell.
I learned later that the Philadelphia Runner folks had no idea until five minutes before we left that city police would block off the streets. But there they were, police cars posted at every intersection, officers giving high-fives to the enthusiastic runners as we went by, and pedestrians, confused at first, erupting into cheers when they figured out what the heck we were doing.
In three words: It was perfect.
The funny thing is, the 2,000 of us disbanded pretty quickly once we reached the Liberty Bell. Everyone waited around for a few minutes while the runners finished, but by the time I’d found Ryan to do a quick interview 10 minutes after the run was over, there was maybe a handful of us left—me, some Philadelphia Runner staff, and media photographers breaking down their gear. So as quickly as we came together, we were gone, as if we were never there in the first place. It was pretty incredible.
Both of us high on the emotion of the night, I talked to Ryan about how he felt about the turnout and what he hoped we had communicated to the city of Boston through our run:
“It’s incredible,” he said. “We sort of realized today that maybe a lot of people were gong to come, but we definitely weren’t expecting 1,500 or 2,000 people. I mean, City Hall was just mobbed. Thank God they shut down Market Street; we wouldn’t have been able to fit on the sidewalks. Before the event, we were sort of picturing it as our showing of unity—Philly runners coming together in a really respectful way. And I think it was totally respectful, but I think this was the Philadelphia way of giving Boston a hug. Everyone showed up, and not only did we say, ‘Boston, we’re here for you, but we’re going to help you over this hump.’ People were cheering. People were shouting. People were chanting, ‘BOSTON! BOSTON!’ as they were running down the street. In a sense we were saying, ‘Hey, we’re not going to let this get us down.’ We’re fighters here in Philadelphia, just like they’re fighters in Boston.”
>> Check out the photos below. All photographs by Christopher Leaman and Sergiy Barchuck.
>> For the latest updates on Boston, head over to The Philly Post.