Runners in Hopkinton on Apr. 17, 2017.

Credit: Phillip Martin/WGBH

For One Day, In One Massachusetts Town, Community Wins Out Over Divisiveness

April 18, 2017

The 121st running of the Boston Marathon was a day punctuated by smiles, laughs and high fives from participants and spectators. Runners represented a broad range of abilities, languages, countries and political sentiments.  That would not seem to be so unusual. But the tranquility and camaraderie of the day was viewed by quite a few people as a welcome relief from our current political turbulence and divisiveness.

When you put 30 thousand-plus runners and wheelchair racers together it’s not clear who is a Republican, who is a Democrat, who voted for Trump or Hillary or who sat out the election. What was clear under partly sunny skies was that on Monday in Hopkinton, folks across a spectrum of politics and society, who were running or wheeling, were included. 

The word ‘inclusion” means the world to Kyle Robidoux of the Mass Association for the Blind.

“Inclusion is very important, whether it’s a footrace or employment or everyday life,” said Robidoux. “I think the work that Team With a Vision does to include atheltes who are blind or visibly impaired and running for the love of running but also raising awareness that regardless of your ability that we can do whatever we want to do.”

Robidoux is technically blind.

“I was born with a degenerative eye disease and diagnosed at age 11,” he said. “I still have some usable vision but it deteriorates over time.”

Kyle began Patriots Day by running from Boston to Hopkinton and was preparing to run back to Boston — a total of 52.4 miles. He was taking a short rest at the Vision Center in Hopkinton and in the company of Kevin McCarthy, a running guide with Team With A Vision. 

“Me lending my sight is a small thing to do, but it allows him not to have to worry about the potholes, the curbs or the other things that he can’t see in time to avoid,” said McCarthy. “So, it’s easy for me to do, but it makes a difference to him and makes him be able to run his race the way he wants to run it.” 

Marathons are about individual times, but for the 190 runners representing Boston Children’s Hospital, including Kristin Williams, this marathon is also about community.

“We’re all running for special causes,” said Williams. “I’m running for my son who is a two-time double lung transplant.” The team has raised more than $2 million for Boston Children’s Hospital.

Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans was sitting inconspicuously on a stoop at the entrance to a parking lot in Hopkinton trying to blend in among the 30,000 other participants when he was spotted by a reporter. An experienced marathon runner, his last time on this course was four years ago — just hours before the bombs went off.

“You know this marathon now will always be that more special because it’s run not only for personal reasons but also for the victims of that tragedy,” said Evans, who ran with his son John, a first-time marathoner. 

Deb and Nicole Paganelli, a mother and daughter who were sitting in a café watching the runners go by, grew up in this quaint town. “I still live here after all these years,” said Deb. The marathon is “still just as exciting. It’s our fame here in Hopkinton.”

The noise of happy, boisterous runners did little to disturb Deb’s recently born grandson, Julian, who was sleeping soundly in a stroller. She’s passing on the marathon excitement to the next generation.

And her daughter Nicole made this observation: 

“My father is from Italy.  He met my mom here in Hopkinton.  My husband is from Brazil. And we all come back to Hopkinton. It just goes to show that a lot can go on in the world but we all congregate here.  We can put aside some nasty things for just one day and celebrate the goodness in all of us and so that’s nice. And we get to do that every year, on this day.” 

 

 

 

 

 


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