A Bostonian Stumbles into the London Marathon

Eileen Sateriale
© Copyright 2013 by Eileen Sateriale


Eileen and Ken in London.

I always wanted to see the United Kingdom and in April 2013, I traveled there for the first time. I had been to other parts of the world never got around to visiting Great Britain. This past April, my husband and I decided that it was time to see all the sites we had seen in movies and read about in books. Our pre-arranged tour was the same week as a spring school vacation week in Boston with the marathon being the capstone event.

We arrived in London and spent our first day getting over jet lag and touring the city. The next day, our six day coach tour started. The first stop was Leeds, a city in Northern England. We checked into the hotel and turned on the television set. The night’s news story was the Boston Marathon bombing. I couldn’t believe what I was watching for my husband and I grew up in Boston and attended the festivities for many years. The newscaster mentioned that several people were killed, including a young boy, and many more suffered debilitating injuries to their limbs. There were many unanswered questions and the culprits were still at large. It was very sad news day for us.

We continued touring and met the other members of our group. They were from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other parts of the United States. The small talk always had to do with what part of the States were you from and when we said, “Boston,” the response was something like, “So sorry to hear about the bombing.” or “We hope no one you know was injured.”

Each evening, after a day of touring, we turned on the news. For several nights in a row, the Boston Marathon was the hot topic. There were biographies about the persons killed and injured and interviews with spectators and family members. The Massachusetts politicians and law enforcement personnel were assuring the citizens that a manhunt was ongoing, an investigation was going to be held, they would get to the bottom of it and hold the persons responsible accountable. There were news bites about the perpetrators. There were facts about them that were very chilling to me personally. They lived in Cambridge, the same city that my husband and I were born in and still had relatives there. Also, both Tsarnaev brothers attended the same high school that my husband graduated from many years ago. As a teenager, I walked the streets of Boston and often rode the subway near where the bombs went off. This nightmare hit too close to home. Patriot’s day was not supposed to be this way; it was a state holiday in Massachusetts, with Revolutionary War reenactments, Red Sox baseball games and the marathon.

Six days after the Boston Marathon, the city of London was scheduled to hold its marathon. The BBC had a discussion about whether or not the London marathon would be held or cancelled in the wake of the Boston tragedy. Their concerns were well founded. The facts about the Boston bombing were still coming to light and perhaps there may be a copycat in London. The decision was finally made by the organizers to hold the London marathon with stepped-up security.

Our tour ended in London the day before the marathon. Sunday, we went to breakfast and took the tube to downtown London. The streets were cordoned off for the marathon with Virgin signs, the marathon’s official sponsor, pasted all over the city. Before the race started, the runners, with black ribbons pinned to their shirts stood in somber silence for thirty seconds to show respect for the Boston victims.

The race started. The crowd cheered nervously. The cheers weren’t the festive ones like the previous summer’s Olympics. No one wanted to say it out loud but everyone thought, “Could what happened in Boston happen here, today?” Even though, it was a beautiful spring day with the Union Jack flying over Parliament, commemorating the Queen’s 87th birthday, no one would breathe a sigh of relief until it was over.

On the banks of the River Thames, tourists and locals were making the most of the Sunday afternoon. People were viewing the city from the London Eye. Tourists were taking pictures from London Bridge and visiting the iconic landmarks. Boaters were recreating on the Thames. Of course, spectators and visitors on the sidelines encouraged the runners while praying for an undramatic finish.

The race ended with Prince Harry at the finish line. He congratulated the tired and exuberant winners as his mother, Diana, would have done. Security was tightened up throughout the event and especially at the finish line with more officers on the scene then previously hired. People with large backpacks were stopped and inspected. After performing his royal duty, Prince Harry excused himself to wish his grandmother a Happy Birthday.

The tube ride back to the hotel was a crowded, party-like atmosphere with runners in spandex capris and t-shirts hugging their loved ones. Families were going home after a beautiful spring day not thinking of the Boston marathon less than a week earlier but I was relieved to end my Great Britain vacation knowing that the London Marathon went off without a hitch.

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