Memory Lane—The Boston Marathon [comic]

TGC Webcomic-BAA[Click the image to see larger]

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to do a map-comic of the Boston Marathon. Drawing the streets brings back memories and lets me revisit the roads in my mind. It’s a very calming, almost meditative exercise.

I’ve labeled points of interest in yellow, and places connected to me in white. The numbers in brackets listed next to some of the names denotes the ages that I watched the marathon from that location.

Boston thoughts

Given the recent news, I wanted to say a little bit about my personal experience of the Boston Marathon. I’ve had some friends here in Scotland who were surprised a marathon would be attacked, so I wanted to explain why this one is different. It’s been such a part of my life and growing up in Eastern MA that I need to explain why this hits so hard.

The Boston Marathon, and the pride we have in it is as much a part of being “from Boston” and loving the Red Sox and hating the Yankees. [I put “from Boston” in quotes because, strictly speaking, I’m from Framingham, a suburb some 20 miles to the west, but I identify as being “from Boston” as I think many Massachusetts natives do.] When I was little, I loved getting Marathon Monday, as it’s locally known, off of school. I knew kids in other states didn’t get the day off, and  we would always have the marathon on the TV in the background for the whole day. I was born a couple years after Bill Rodgers won his last Boston Marathon, but those were the days that local folks still won, or at least did quite well. Names like Rodgers, Johny Kelly, Rosie Ruiz, and team Hoyt (a father who has been pushing his son, who has cerebral palsy, in the Boston Marathon since 1981) were common knowledge in my household, and most in MA. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties and saw the Honolulu Marathon, that I realized that all marathons didn’t have nearly 30,000 runners and hundreds of bandits each year. It’s just how the marathon is in MA and I didn’t know it was that strange.

When I was a little older, my best friend lived on a street just off the route. I would go over either really early in the morning, before they closed the streets, or sleep over the night before. We’d go out and cheer for hours for all the runners. We’d clap especially hard for the mobility impaired runners who came first, like the blind runners who have guides with them, spend hours clapping non-stop through the two big waves of the pack and then wander about after the roads were re-opened, whooping and cheering for those bandit (or non-official) runners who were determined to do the route, even if it took them all day and night.

Folk do all kinds of crazy things to get people to cheer for them. It really helps to hear the crowds cheering, and they light up if you cheer their name. I can get why you might need some encouragement to run 26 miles! Lots of people write their names on their t-shirts, have pictures of the folk they’re running for, or write team names on themselves. But some folk really go all out and run in costume! Framingham has the 10K marker, so it’s pretty early on in the race. Often these people shed their costumes by the time they cross the finish line, but where we watched, they usually were still fully suited up. I’ve seen a few Abe Lincolns, countless superheroes, and even a guy running in a bunny suit. That year my best friend and I actually made “Run, Rabbit, Run” signs to take out, the only time I have *ever* made a sign for a sporting event.

In high school, I did the Walk for Hunger twice, and part of the 20 mile route follows the marathon route. I remember thinking it was so cool having folk cheering me on like I cheered on the runners, and also getting a better understanding of why it’s called Heartbreak Hill… And I was only walking!

I didn’t get to pay it too much attention during the 4 years I was in uni, because I almost always worked that day, but there was still a buzz about it and it was certainly a topic of conversation. Then I started working for a local video production company. Turns out that they/we did a lot of the videos for the Boston Athletic Association (who run the race) and worked on the day, manning camera points at every check point for a company called My Marathon. I learned a lot more about the marathon in my years there.

Every official runner gets a chip that they tie to their shoelaces. When they pass each checkpoint, it beeps. (Yes, this can get a bit annoying, but you get used to it). This records their bib number and time. You an track runners on the BAA website (which came very much in handy yesterday) and My Marathon synched this to their cameras and would make a personalized DVD of your run for you. We also recorded race highlights and footage along the route, and cut together the main highlights for the BAA. During those years I got up around 5am to get everything loaded up and to my checkpoint before they closed the roads. I snagged the 10K, because it was just down the street from where I used to watch as a kid. I was right back, clapping for hours for everyone who passed. I hated the early call, but enjoyed the day. Except maybe for the time it was pissing down with rain, but if they were running in it, I was going to be out clapping in it.

I got to know the route better too. Up until then, I mostly knew the bit from the start to Framingham, and then the last 5K. The middle bit was kind of a blur. But having co-workers along the different parts of the route made it much more concrete. I learned about the girls of Wellesly College whose cheers can be heard half a mile away, and the chaos at Kenmore when the Red Sox game lets out. We actually stopped covering that checkpoint because we had such a hard time keeping folks away from the cameras. I got to know the stories of some of the most famous runners better. Our editor worked on a documentary about the Hoyts, and we cut footage together to celebrate Johny Kelly; he got to cross the finish line and break the tape one last time before he died. I even got a few of those Boston Marathon jackets that runners and volunteers get.

Once I moved to Scotland, I still always knew when it was Marathon Monday. I knew folks running in it, and working on it, and saw pictures posted from the race route. It’s just part of being from Boston and I have nothing but fond memories of it and the people who run it, run in it, and are a part of it. I’ve been making maps of my daily routines for my research work, and I’m going to make one about my memories of the marathon. I’m submitting the other comics for Team Girl Comic’s webcomic, but will post this one here, for expediency’s sake.

Adventures in Sunderland

I had a wonderful time in Sunderland last week at the Adventures in Textuality conference, hosted by the University of Sunderland. Thanks to Billy Proctor for having me and letting me be part of a great two days. I wish I could find a jpeg of their poster, as it was a lot of fun, but here’s a pic of my badge on it:


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There were lots of great talks, and the keynotes were fantastic. The link at the top has the full program. Special thanks must be given to Will Brooker, who came to give his keynote despite being quite ill. He gave a really interesting talk on the Batman Matrix before having to head back to London for treatment. I also particularly enjoyed Bryan Talbot‘s talk on the anthropomorphic tradition in comics. That talk was an interesting counterpoint to hearing Mary and Bryan talk about Dotter of her Father’s Eye the weekend before in Dundee. And thanks to Julia Round as well, for a really interesting talk, and especially for chatting with me, as I was slightly terrified on the first day of my first conference!

I also enjoyed the setting, too. During my first year in the UK I got to visit Newcastle briefly, but never made it down to Sunderland. Most of my knowledge of the city is from Talbot’s book, Alice in Sunderland, so it was exciting to go exploring and see these places for myself. I was lucky that the weather was lovely, so I had an opportunity to wander a fair bit. I didn’t think to take my big camera, so I’ll have settle with some instagram snaps. [Under the cut for ease of loading] Continue reading