I never planned to stay this long. Eleven years and counting. Sure, Boston winters are rough. But summer and fall are gorgeous, and I found a job and friends I love. The days and months and years quickly accumulated.
I’ll never forget my first Fenway Park visit with Bill Conway in the summer of 2006. It felt like I was inside of a tin can. The green paint paled in comparison to Wrigley’s green ivy. One of America’s most iconic ballparks? Huh. That September, I began working at Ropes & Gray. As baby lawyers, a law school friend and I were often the lucky recipients of partners’ seats. Kristen kept score by hand. She loved Nick Green, I, Jacoby Ellsbury. We swapped notes on firm life, friends and our adventures in a city that was still not quite home for us.
Within a few years, I was sharing season tickets with colleagues. I figured I would take it one season at a time and pull the plug when it was time for Boston and me to part ways. Fenway became where I would go when slipping out of work on a weeknight or to spend lazy Sunday afternoons, catching up with old friends over crappy beer and sometimes even crappier baseball. Every Saturday before Patriot’s Day, my Dad and I would go to a game, a ritual before lacing up my sneaks and heading to Hopkinton. One year, my Mom came too. And my parents, separated since a few weeks into my life, spent the Saturday before Marathon Monday catching up on family and friends over nine innings.
Somewhere in those years, I became a fast runner. In retrospect, I don’t fully understand it. But some combination of will, training, discipline, self-awareness, mental toughness, and genetics converged. On more than a few Sundays, I’d show up for the 1:35 p.m. Sox game with a 20-miler under my belt. Nothing quite hit the spot like a Fenway Frank (no ketchup, only mustard, thanks).
The 2013 finish line bombings forever intertwined Fenway and the Boston Marathon. Big Papi rallied our wounded citizens by reminding us, “This is our f’ing city!” A month later, many of us descended on Fenway for Boston Bites Back, where local chefs took over the concession stands to raise money for the One Fund to help our bombing victims. That night I took my first stroll on the warning track. A few months later, I found myself on the Fenway Park grass, enjoying what remains my favorite concert of all time–Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z. JT wore a 617 jersey. We were still hurting. In the weeks to follow, with the smell of fall in the air and New England defiance in our blood, the Red Sox won the World Series. Our f’ing city. My city too. The Esplanade and the carriage way along the Newton Hills had become my backyard. The Citco sign, my welcome home.
Fenway remained a fixture in my life. Stifling hot summer games. Frigid April and September nights. Becca, my dear friend and running partner, got engaged while throwing out the first pitch. My brother and I celebrated our Dad’s 75th birthday watching Paul McCartney together, 26 years after our first concert when Dad took us to McCartney at Soldier’s Field.
I suppose this story should end with a remarkable comeback, the aging runner who after a few years of spotty performances regained her stride and ran the race of a lifetime. I hope one of my fellow Fenway runners is telling that story tonight. It’s hard not to love that narrative.
Mine is far from that. My training was imperfect. I pulled my hamstring grinding away miles with Becca on the river. August wore me down with heavy work commitments, too much time in planes, trains and automobiles, two heart-wrenching asylum cases, and the unexpected loss of two friends.
The weather was gross Friday night. Hot and humid to start. Light rain with thunder clouds looming turned to torrential downpours. Our shoes and socks were completely water-logged with many miles to go. The crushed red brick of the warning track found its way into our shoes. The corners were tight and added pressure to our inside legs.
But I was running. In Fenway Park. The constantly shifting gray clouds were stunning in the open sky above us. In between storms, we saw a beautiful sunset. When the darkness set in, the Citco sign blinked beyond the outfield. The Pru stood there proudly too. For one hundred and sixteen laps I had old, dear friends there to cheer me on with their kids and signs and booming voices. I also picked up a few anonymous fans at Bleacher Bar, who shouted words of encouragement every time I looped past.
On Friday night, there was no place I would have rather been than at my beloved Fenway, that green tin can, running a marathon. Our f’ing city. My city too. I never planned to stay this long.