On Sunday night, or rather, in the wee hours of Monday morning, before the starting gun and commencement of the 118th Boston Marathon, we rode our bikes 26.2 miles (and then some) in the clear and cold, under a blanket of stars, surrounded by hundreds of like-minded cyclists doing the same. It was 2 Fat Nerds’ first time at the Midnight Marathon Bike Ride, and despite a few question marks leading up to the occasion, it proved to be nothing less than an incredibly fun, unique event with a great community of riders and organizers.
After the tragic events of last year, the people of Boston stood tall, galvanized, defiant. Through the One Fund, millions of dollars were raised for the victims in the blink of an eye; #BostonStrong trended hardcore; we all sported the marathon colors — blue and yellow — like they were going out of style. Like many of my fellow Bostonians, in the months leading up to this year’s marathon, I began to consider how I might fill the weekend that would be so charged with emotion and civic pride.
I knew that while there was no way in hell that I could run the marathon myself, I still wanted to participate in some way: to get out there on Patriot’s Day weekend in solidarity with the runners and victims, to push my own athletic boundaries and compete in some manner, to stay stubborn and vulnerable instead of hiding in the crowd, or worse yet, at home, as a silent spectator.
The Midnight Marathon Bike Ride seemed like a great fit for a number of reasons. First, I knew that the course and the ride home afterwards would amount to a distance just on the edge of what I could reasonably do on my bike. (It ended up being my longest cycling workout logged on 2 Fat Nerds to date.) Second, the ride followed the course of the Boston Marathon almost turn-for-turn (though avoiding the start and finish lines for security reasons this year). Having never seen most of the western half of the course firsthand, I knew that the experience would deepen my understanding of the race itself, and give me at least some idea of the terrain with which the runners contend. And third, I knew that over 1,000 cyclists participated last year, and so doing the ride would fulfill my need to feel like a part of something bigger, something great, on the day of the race.
On the other hand, like I said, there were some questions and concerns about the ride this year. Most of them were raised over the weekend, as I waged a little campaign to recruit Mike and Dad as my riding buddies. Yes, the Boston Athletic Association asked the organizers not to hold the ride this year. Yes, in response to pressure from the B.A.A. and MEMA, the MBCR (commuter rail) cancelled the special train that was introduced in 2013, which brought hundreds of riders and their bikes safely and easily to the starting line. Yes, the event is unofficial and unsanctioned, with no formal support for riders along the route. Yes, ride takes place in the dark, and stretches of the more rural western section of the course are poorly lit. Yes, it will be cold, and yes, there will be hipsters. But come on, guys… we can’t let the terrorists win, right?
Despite all of the above, we did it anyway. And what did we see?
We saw hundreds of riders of all types and experience levels, all of them friendly and supportive, and each one taking the necessary safety precautions. We struck up spontaneous conversations with complete strangers along the way. Even at 1am, there were a few spectators out along the route to cheer us on. Police from every town, along with state police, were present and helpful. We thanked them as we passed; they told us to be safe. We saw rope lights and glow sticks, cruisers and beaters and fixies, rich dudes in their jerseys and Lycra, women wearing LED fairy wings, some guy in a giraffe costume. We saw the Wellesley Scream Tunnel (silent), heard the rush of the Charles at Newton Lower Falls, looked up to see the half moon rising as we crested Heartbreak Hill. We counted thirteen Dunkin’ Donuts locations along the way.
And when we got to Back Bay, crossing Dartmouth Street as we rode the length of the Comm Ave Mall, I smiled and I checked my watch. We finished the Boston Marathon route in 2:01, just two minutes ahead of Geoffrey Mutai’s course record in 2011. Man, that dude is FAST.