Marathon Day

“Some thoughts for my Non-Bostonian friends.
As you probably know by now, Patriot’s Day is a holiday in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Pretty much everyone’s off. And while many Bay Staters do call the day by its name, most of my friends called it Marathon Day.

And every year, on Marathon Day, the Red Sox play a home game at 11AM. (For those so inclined —and most are— the Cask ‘n Flagon, the classic sports bar in the shadow of the Green Monster, opens for business at 11. I hear there’s a line.) The game’s unusual start time is set to coincide with the Marathon, allowing fans to leave the game and wander into Kenmore Square to cheer on the marathoners. A typical game will get out around two PM; most people walk through the square, following the marathon route onto Boylston Street, and the finish line. They’ll arrive around 2:30.

They can’t help it; they’re drawn there. In all of New England, the center of gravity on Marathon Day is Boylston street.

IF the weather’s right (and, honestly, even if it isn’t), no place on earth, not Times Sqaure nor New Orleans, offers a better pub crawl than Boylston street on Marathon Day. My friends and I would start at Division 16 before moving down the street, stuffing our way into bar after crowded bar, grabbing a round in each before returning to the street to cheer the runners on. By journey’s end, it’d be close to six PM – just in time to cut through the Public Gardens, up the Commons, past the State House and down the backside of Beacon Hill to the Boston Garden, where either the Bruins or the Celtics always seemed to have a home game a home game at night.

For a visitor to the city, it’s a glorious way to spend a day and really understand what makes Boston the special place it is. To a sports fan, Marathon Day is a little bit of Heaven on Earth.

Bostonians bristle at the notion that theirs is not a world class city. (Truth be told, Bostonians bristle at a lot of things— but that’s another tale.). But they fail to see the affection in these jests, for the size of the city is at the heart of Boston’s charm. “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” has the romance, “New York, New York” is timeless, but “Dirty Water” is pure Boston— a low-tech, rowdy stomp of a song that seems to say: “this may be the deal here, but it’s ours. And in in our own way, we love it just the way it is.” To the rest of the world, it’s Monday. But it’s a Big Day in Boston, for it’s Marathon Day, and if the weather’s good (and even if it isn’t)… no matter what else is going on in your life, all is right with the world. You can’t even bounce a check that day (bank holiday, dontcha know).

Why am I telling you all this? Because Patriot’s Day is Boston’s day, God dammit. The city’s own Special Day, when Boston – not New York or LA or London or anywhere – is the best place on the planet to be.

And whichever coward did this stained this day. For years to come.

Like all deep stains, today’s ugliness will fade, but it will never really wash out. In addition to the sox game and the marathon, Patriot’s Day in Boston will have new rituals: Moments of silence, tributes, prayers. This is, of course, as it should be. But to this Calvinist New Englander (if not by home then by ancestry), this day is a sucker-punch reminder of The Way Of The World: if you have something simple, something unstained, something that’s just plain good— someone, somewhere, wants to ruin it.

I want to say that the best way to honor the day will be to dance. Go to the Flask, cheer the Sox, cheer the runners, do the pub crawl. Treasure the one carefree day.

But somehow, that doesn’t feel right. At least not now. But adding another day of mourning to our collective calendar feels wrong too.

I don’t know what to do. And that angers me that I even have to contemplate it.

Here on Boston’s Day. Patriot’s Day. Marathon Day.”

Peter Kelley