This month's virtual book club selection was: 4:09:43 Boston 2013 Through the Eyes of the Runners by Hal Higdon.
I am a big fan of Hal Higdon. I consider him to be one of the most trusted training resources in the running community. I've read his website and all of his running advice in very thorough detail. I also own a copy of his Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide novel.
Like many other runners, the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 stung me at a very personal level. I wrote this post sharing my reaction. It's hard to believe that we are approaching the 2-year anniversary of that horrible tragedy.
Admittedly, I was a little apprehensive about reading 4:09:43. I knew that it was going to take me on an emotional journey. I was bracing myself for what I knew would be some tough details to swallow.
And so we begin.
The book begins with introductions that include some brief history behind the Boston Marathon, background on how it operates today, and how the book came to be.
Then, the stories. One of the things I enjoy reading most on runners' blogs are the race recaps. This book was essentially a giant collection of recaps. They came from a bevvy of compelling perspectives - the elites, the race directors, the locals, the visitors from overseas.
All of the details and the perspectives were vivid and very relateable for me. Within just a few pages I was in tears. Despite wildly divergent backgrounds and lives, we are all runners and we all understand each other.
I read about the morning routines, the nerves, the buses to the start line in Hopkinton, the hopes and fears going into that day's main event. How Boston is the dream that binds us all together. How waiting at the start line is the worst part. How it is always so challenging not to go out too fast in the beginning. How mentally and physically grueling it feels when the pain starts to hit, whether early in the course or near the end.
Having never run Boston myself (and knowing that I will probably never qualify), I was fascinated to learn more about the course. For example, I learned about the challenging downhill start, the diverse neighborhoods along the way, the drop in temperature during the final few miles from being near the ocean. I also learned more about the incredible amount of planning that goes into these races. The race director, Dave McGillivray, has run the race every year since 1973. Since he began working with the race in 1988, he runs the course afterwards by himself.
And then, the tragedy. The book was named for the fact that the clock read 4:09:43 at the time that the first bomb hit.
It was eye-opening to read the reactions and accounts from when the bombing occurred. Some runners thought it was a cannon, celebratory fireworks, or thunder. Some were too tired to react. One ran "like Usain Bolt" even after having just completed 26.2 miles. Another said, "Living outside New York, I know that when a police tells you to turn around and run, you don't question it." One woman realized that the minute she had paused to hug her daughter on the course was the reason she wasn't in the line of fire.
I was struck by the recounts of selflessness and kindness after the bomb hit. Finishers gave away their medals to those who couldn't finish. Locals took in dozens of runners into their homes to get them off the streets. Folks offered each other their phones, chargers, and even their hotel rooms since the streets were on lockdown.
Finally, the aftermath and the lasting impact of the day's events. The runners and all those impacted by the bombings displayed unbelievable resilience and strength, while also admitting many conflicting emotions. I was particularly touched by one woman that discovered after the marathon that she was pregnant. She decided her child's middle name would be Boston.
The book is filled with contrasts. It describes running as both solitary and communal. It shows the sheer panic alongside the determined strength. The stories are both heartbreaking and inspirational.
I recommend this book for all runners and for anyone impacted by the day's events. The book isn't just about the Boston Marathon bombings; it is a book about the human spirit.
What a great review! Like you, I really liked the perspective of the runners. The other book I read wasn't nearly as enjoyable or moving.ReplyDelete
And don't say you'll never qualify--my BQ is now 4 hours. You never know...
Thanks Wendy! This was a fantastic pick for virtual running book club this month. The timing was perfect, especially given what's going on with the trial and the race happening next week. Thanks so much for hosting! Your review was fantastic, too - and how cool that you got to interact with Hal Higdon!!!Delete
LOL, I've thought about how the only possibility I might have for BQ-ing would be when I'm in my 80s and the time needed is like 5:30. So yeah, maybe SOMEDAY!
You never know! I'm in my 50s and my BQ is 4:00. It's a possibility. Remote, but hey...Delete
Wendy, I TOTALLY think you could BQ if you wanted to. GO GET 'EM!!!Delete
I couldn't pick up this book just yet. I wasn't even there in 2013 but in the years I ran, one of my finish times was 4:11. I get chills thinking about where my family and friends stood at the finish line as when I came through, as they were in the exact spots of both bombs. It's so traumatic for me to think about still. It does sound like a wonderful bookReplyDelete
Wow, Marcia. That gives me chills thinking about you running Boston and your family and friends being there during that time, too. The 4-hour mark on the clock is a heavily populated finishing time so it's about the worst time possible for something like that bombing to occur. I can certainly imagine that it would be tough to read the details if you've actually run Boston and can visualize the backdrop and everything!Delete
OMG, Marcia, I can't even imagine what you felt that day!!! (And you weren't even there!) So glad you & the fam are safe and sound!Delete
I love the idea of a virtual book club! I keep meaning to write more book reviews since I do a decent amount of reading about running and triathlon. Maybe I'll join in for May!ReplyDelete
Yes, Lauren!!! I'm always on the hunt for good books on running, so please do share your thoughts on your book discoveries!!!Delete
This book sounds like one I definitely need to read. I like that you pointed out the juxtapositions in running: it is solitary but it is also full of camaraderie, weakness and strength. I'm sure these things were even more apparent at the finish line of Boston two years ago.ReplyDelete
Amy, I think you would really, really enjoy the book! It's a very quick read, albeit very emotional. I know you are a fan of Hal Higdon, too! If you do read it, please share your thoughts - I love all of your "Amy Reads" posts!!!Delete
I have had this book for a year now and I only just read it because of Wendy's book club (I hope to post my review tomorrow. Have to write it first!) I, too, definitely recommend it. Especially for runners. I live in the Boston area and will always have a special place for the marathon and will never forget the tragedy but embrace the aftermath and how Boston and the running community just got stronger!ReplyDelete
Lara, I can't wait to read your recap once you write it! Your perspective would be especially compelling since you live in the Boston area! You probably knew a lot of people who were at the race, either running or spectating. I imagine that would make the stories even more touching to you. Kudos to the entire city of Boston for its strength throughout such a horrible tragedy!Delete
I love your last line! You're absolutely right - this book was about so much more than the bombings.ReplyDelete
Thanks so much! I loved your recap, too. The stories of the Boston locals reaching out to help were an amazing display of humanity!!!Delete
Let me borrow your book so I can read it.ReplyDelete
Oh man! I borrowed the book from the library (and I actually got it from the Des Plaines library since I don't think the Chicago Public Library has it)! Otherwise I would totally have lent it to you to read. I think you would really enjoy it!!!Delete
It was almost like being there. Higdon did an amazing job of setting the scene for readers, and I think that made it all so much more real.ReplyDelete
It was a difficult read, but so very important.
Completely agree! I knew going in that it was going to be a difficult read - I had my box of Kleenex handy right next to me. =D But it was so worth it. I really felt like I was there reliving everyone's experiences, too!Delete