It would be hard for two people to be more supportive of Paddy Runs for Haiti than Sandy and Joe. They’ve woken up early, stood around at races, bought me breakfasts, Gatorade, hotel rooms, and race entries. They’ve stood around for hours on the streets of Cincinnati, Washington D.C, New York, and Boston just to cheer me on for a few seconds as I ran by.
There’s no wellspring of gratitude deep enough, no lexicon of thanks that could adequately express the debt I owe them, so I won’t even try, but whenever I’m out on the road, I feel them pulling for me. I’ve tried to lead a life that would make them proud and I’m a much better man for that.
Bare-chested in Back Bay, I charged across Arlington Street and through the gates of the Boston Public Garden. The rain and ice continued to dump down, but what of that? I gave George Washington my best and crossed over the fancy bridge in the middle of the park. There’s a small island on the north side of the lake that was originally attached to the land. In the 1800’s, however, the secluded peninsula had become a popular spot for open-air hook-ups so the city engineers dug out the narrow strip of land connecting it to shore.
I crossed Charles Street and entered Boston Common, the oldest public park in the United States, arguably the world. When the city of Boston bought the land in 1634, it was used as common pasture for cattle. The 50-acre plot was quickly overgrazed and the cattle population limited to seventy; a restriction that remained in effect until 1830 when cows were finally banned altogether. The Common was also colonial Boston’s place of execution. A large oak tree served as gallows for condemned murderers, pirates and thieves as well as those found guilty of witchcraft or religious dissention. (Quakers and Indians fell under this category)
When British troops occupied the city in 1768, they made their camp on the Common, chopping down trees and burning fences as firewood. By 1775, the park had become a fortified camp housing over 1,700 Redcoats. The scars from its network of trenches and earthworks were visible well into the next century. British soldiers marched out from the Common on April 19th, 1775 to seize the arsenal at Concord which led to the opening battles of the Revolution. The next year, George Washington reviewed the continental army here after liberating the city. Before they left, the British buried their casualties from Lexington, Concord and Bunker Hill on the Common where they remained until the late 19th century when they were moved into the nearby Central Burying Ground.
I passed the Soldiers and Sailors monument and turned north, bounding up the stairs by the golden-domed state house. I tagged up at the gilded Memorial commemorating the valor of the 54th Massachusetts, the first black regiment in the United States Army, then turned around and headed down the north side of the Common along Beacon Street. John Hancock used to live along here and planted a row of elms on the Common to improve the view from his house. The last one survived until 1975.
Besides angry protests against everything from colonial-era food-shortages to the Vietnam War, the Common has seen positive events as well, including a speech by Martin Luther King and a Judy Garland concert that drew over 100,000 people. The East side of the park is also the mustering point for runners taking the free buses to the marathon start in Hopkinton. I’ll be there bright and early Monday morning.
Heading back through the Public Garden, I tapped the head of Mama Duck making way for her ducklings, curved back around to George Washington, and headed back down Commonwealth Avenue.