Boston, who loves ya?
Halifax, your sister city, that’s who.
It was readily apparent this evening as more than 1000 runners gathered in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax’s South End to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the Boston bombings, and to the injured, to the Boston Marathon runners and spectators, and to the very spirit of those who inhabit the East Coast city.
The runners in the Annapolis Valley also held a tribute run this evening.
Boston and Halifax have a history, a connection. After the Halifax Explosion of 1917, Boston helped with relief efforts. In return, as a gesture of appreciation, Halifax sends a Christmas tree every year to Boston.
Richard Riley, the American Consulate-General for Atlantic Canada. mentioned this long-time alliance in his opening remarks. He also spoke of the dead and injured from the terrorist blasts and then thanked Halifax for its support, not only from the run, but from many phone calls he received while the crisis was ongoing.
Thanks to the support, Riley said, we were all “Boston strong. Halifax strong. Nova Scotia strong.”
In the calm but chilly April air, the assembled runners applauded before setting off on their hilly five kilometre run. Marie-Claude Gregoire, who organized the race with Michelle Kempton, asked the crowd to maintain silence for the first kilometre as a sign of respect and contemplation for those the explosion affected.
At first the gathering seemed almost festive, with runners from virtually every club in the city showing up, several hundred wearing Boston marathon shirts and jackets. But as the crowd set out from the lower parking lot along the outer loop of the park, a somber silence descended.
The beginning of the run was an eerie recreation of the start of the Boston Marathon. Heading down the first hill, a long streaming line of runners filled the park path, a bobbing, shuffling flow of colour. The sound of shoes scuffling the crushed stone path filled the air. No one spoke.
For two and a half kilometres, people ran, jogged and walked. The faster runners weaved in and out among the others, but no one said anything. Fast, slow – it didn’t matter. The crowd ran as one. Our movement united us as we rolled over the park’s hills.
At the turn-around point, people started to chat and many picked up the pace, enjoying the freedom, the choice to run hard if they wanted.
In the end, it didn’t matter who came first, who came last. It didn’t matter who was fast and who was slow. Everyone arrived at the same destination.
We all ended up where we’d begun, a metaphor for life if I ever knew of one.
We began the run, contemplating Boston, its victims, its sorrows. We ended the run, affirming friendships, hugging each other, celebrating our ability to run, to love, to live.
We are all strong.