Keep Fit: Boston Spirit in Full Force at Red Sox Parade

To non-runners, the evidence has been present for centuries: Runners like to do strange things.

Chief among the oddities is logging 26.2 miles by choice, and fuel is constantly being added to that fire. For example, it’s not universally believed that 9:30 on a Saturday morning is a normal time to go to a Dropkick Murphys concert. Most people would also probably not decide at 6 p.m. on Friday that shipping up to Boston for the weekend is a feasible idea. But the Red Sox were hosting their World Series parade, my friend had passes to the pregame ceremonies at Fenway Park, and I was in.

As I scanned the ferry and train schedules, the “how” wasn’t going through my head, but the “why.” This was the ultimate way to end a season that had begun, just under six months ago, with tragedy at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Running Boston has always graced my bucket list. And I decided on New Year’s Eve 2012 that I would run Boston 2013. I hadn’t secured a number, but instead planned to illegally enter the field with a few friends. They’re both celebrated and hated, but such “bandits” have always been a part of the Boston Marathon culture. I’m still not exactly sure why I abruptly changed my train and left Boston on Sunday, April 14, instead of Marathon Monday, April 15. But, like the million-plus Bostonians that lined the parade route, I was happy to celebrate a very tangible return of the city’s spirit.

The morning kicked off with player interviews on a stage set up on the first baseline. Twenty-five amphibious vehicles—duck boats—lined the perimeter, readying themselves for the Red Sox “rolling rally” through the streets of Boston and then into the Charles River.

Just prior to the Dropkick Murphys’ set of Boston-themed songs, Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes screamed “cue the duck boats!” He then joined the Boston-based band in singing “The Boys Are Back,” a song that, if this were any other year, would simply and perfectly embody Boston’s improbable run to the World Series championship—they finished last in the division in 2012. But this year, it doubled as a fitting conclusion to a trying few months.

The ceremony had one memorable hiccup as a 16-wheeler carrying the band and Sox mascot Wally the Green monster got stuck in the Fenway dirt. Half of the duck boats, all sporting playoff beards, drove out of the park, but half remained lined up behind the truck until one decided to give it a tow. The crowd broke into a deafening cheer, and they were off to greet the rest of the city.

A World Series parade is something that every baseball fan should have a chance to experience. And if you’re going to go to one that’s not for a team you’ve supported for 25 years—I’m looking at you, New York Mets—then Boston, home of Bridgehampton’s Carl Yaztremski, is the place to do it. The ceremony was both pleasantly low key and hilarious, as each player took their turn with the mic. World Series MVP David Ortiz wore a WWE Championship belt. He later jumped off his duck boat during the parade to cross the marathon finish line, which remains painted on Boylston Street, before the entire crowd broke into “God Bless America.”

Selfishly, I was afraid that I’d notice the high security as a stark reminder of the real possibility of terrorism that day. Security was present, but not overbearing. Saturday was about duck boats with beards; and duck boats with beards towing a 16-wheeler. And, maybe just a little bit, about trust that everyone who attended was present in celebration and relief and nothing more.

The weekend was all about overcoming what had been a difficult year for marathoners, albeit in very different ways. New York City hosted its annual marathon on Sunday. After Superstorm Sandy devastated the New York metro area—including Staten Island, the traditional starting place of the marathon—organizers were forced to cancel. It was the right decision, but one that furthered Sandy’s aggressive agenda.

Had I stayed in New York this weekend, I would have gone into the city to watch the race. But I’m second guessing that intention. The next time I attend a marathon, it will be because I’m running it.

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