Boston Marathon

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I would say this this past week was our first (much needed) dose of spring. The sun has been shining all week and it has done so much to lift the spirits of everyone on campus as we deal with the difficult events of the other week and prepare for the onslaught of final assignments.

Another example of positivity in Harvard Square

Another example of positivity in Harvard Square

I had a difficult time figuring out how to share my perspective on the tragedy at the time, but I could write a novel about the outpouring of love and support in the Harvard community since.  For example, I found the most inspiring email in my inbox earlier today. One of my blockmates forwarded me the link to a page for a Recovery Fund for a man named Jimmy who had been injured in the bombing at the Boston Marathon.  At first, the name didn’t register with me.  I did, however, notice that the message had been forwarded from email list to email list, so I clicked on the link to the page out of curiosity.  When the page loaded, I instantly recognized Jimmy from our countless exchanges my freshman year.

As it turns out, Jimmy worked in the Freshman Mailroom (in the basement of the Science Center), so he interacted with many Harvard students interacted with him on a regular basis.  Checking your regular mail is a relatively impersonal experience (since each student has a personal mailbox), but in order to collect a package you check in with someone at the Mailroom Window.  Jimmy was often the person greeting students at the window, and in his position he has shared countless conversations with countless Harvard freshmen over the years, myself included.

I am not a particularly sentimental person, but I was touched to see how many of my classmates recognized the important role that Jimmy and the Mailroom staff serve on campus, and were willing and eager to share the link with their peers.  I wanted to take a moment and share it with all of you as well.

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The past week on campus has been incredibly surreal. I was at the marathon on Monday, up all night on Thursday and in front of the TV most of Friday watching coverage of the manhunt, and celebrating Friday night when it all came to a close. Jeanie, Inesha, and Rob each gave their own insights into this week’s events, and I would echo much of what they said: it was a scary experience that brought the campus and the city together. I’ve seen and heard echoes of “Boston Strong” again and again in the past few days, and the sentiment could not be more true: everything from the dedicated police response to the incredibly high spirits after the arrest made on Friday demonstrated again and again that Boston is a proud and resilient city.

Having spent nearly four years living in the Boston area, seeing the city unite in the wake of the bombings was unsurprising to me – there is a fierce sense of pride that comes through in Red Sox fanaticism, local politics, and winter weather survival. What surprised me more, actually, was the sense of local pride I saw blossoming in myself and in fellow students over the course of this week. While we are residents in the area, I think many of us don’t necessarily consider ourselves “Bostonians” or “Cantabrigians” if we’re not from here originally. But in the wake of this week’s tragedy, we all were experiencing the pain, sorrow, and eventually triumph along with the rest of the city. For many of us, it was the first real sign that Boston and its community has truly become part of our identity in the years we’ve been living here.

There was a really touching article published in The Atlantic this week entitled “You May Leave Boston, but Boston Never Leaves You” that talked about exactly this sentiment. While we may not realize it consciously, college students living in the Boston area come to this city for some of the most formative years of our life and become part of the “enormous extended family” of people who consider Boston home. For most of us at Harvard, Boston will only be home for a brief while, but it is the city in which we develop into “real people,” come to form a sense of identity, learn to think for ourselves, and join a diverse community. What this week has taught me is that the community that has helped to shape me extends far beyond the walls of Harvard – Cambridge and Boston, and the sense of intense local pride so unique to this area, are just as much a part of the equation.

This sense of connection extends beyond my eagerness to cheer for local sports teams. I’ve spent all three of my summers locally: one at Harvard, one interning downtown for Boston Public Schools, and one working at a consulting firm in Cambridge. I wrote my thesis about the Boston community, and spoke with residents about the best (and worst) parts of the city. I boast about my knowledge of Boston geography, and take pride in my ability to walk around the city without needing a map. In my four years here, I’ve campaigned for local politicians, attended cultural events in Cambridge, and explored the area’s rich history. My attachment to Boston and Cambridge is deep and multifaceted, and in a strange way this week’s tragic events were the first chance I had to really reflect on how much this city has shaped me as a person.

Yesterday, I set off on a long run along the river and through downtown Boston to visit the memorial at Boylston Street and get a glimpse of how the city is bouncing back. I’ll let the following photos speak for themselves, but it was a really moving and uplifting experience to be downtown with countless others venturing out to enjoy the spring weather and celebrate the city in the wake of terror and tragedy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this week, it’s that Boston is strong, and that I’m lucky to have picked up a bit of that strength, pride, and resilience in my short four years here.

Daffodils in bloom along the Charles

A touch of humor near Boylston St

Huge crowd gathered at the Boylston St memorial following the Red Sox game

Outpouring of support at Boylston St

A running-themed flower box on Beacon St near Boston Common

Beautiful view along the Esplanade

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Picture a rowdy protester in the #OccupyMovement laying face down and helpless because he/she is getting arrested.

This was me – but without the handcuffs and the protest.

Yes, I was just laying face down in the hallway of my upperclassmen duplex suite. As my roommate (former member of Harvard’s Cross Country team) used a rolling pin to flatten my calves, I winced from this beautifully painful experience. I had been limping around for a few days now, but was still determined to continue my Boston Half Marathon training.

I am not a runner. I’ll never identify myself as a runner. If anything, all of my athletic glory stems from my high school swimming career. To many people, college serves as the pinnacle time to redefine themselves academically. I agree, but being such a passionate math and science person (probably since the womb), I’ve found that much of my personal exploration has been in the athletic arena.

One of the best decisions I made freshman year (and life in general) was to attend the Women’s Crew informational meeting. From here, I was directed to a boathouse across the Charles River. This sounded like standard procedure until I walked in and my line of vision was filled with three dozen men on ergs. Apparently my 5’2” build fits the profile for a men’s heavyweight coxswain.

My boys and I in action during our first race! (Same day as Harvard-Yale 2010)

I eagerly agreed to steer the boat, itching for the physically challenging, team environment I had once thrived in while swimming in high school. However, I felt like the responsibilities of coxswains were limited to administrative matters when we weren’t in the boat. I was fed up with holding the clipboard after eight and a half minutes. I asked to participate in the boys’ conditioning drills and my thighs soon wanted to violently murder me as I ran stadiums. Even though we all quit crew at the end of the semester, we’ll forever be united through the pain we endured.

The whole gang!


I checked “crew” off on my “East Coast To-Do” list and considered other athletic opportunities such as Kickboxing classes at Harvard’s gym and Harvard club sports teams. It’s undeniable that the opportunities at Harvard are limitless, but the university’s location also makes them seem boundless. Does the Boston Marathon ring a bell? Well, I registered for the 2011 half marathon after listening to my realistic side and considering my personal athleticism. I encountered super difficult problems during training such as estimating the probability of serious danger when running late at night after lab, and being fireman-carried down 2 flights of stairs by a good friend because each step caused shooting, unbearable pain…no big deal.

I can casually describe all the stress and strain in retrospect because the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment far outweighs the agonizing discomfort I experienced limping to the Science Center.

Beyonce should sing "Run the Half (Harvard Girls)"


Crossing the finish line with the cheers of my best friends and sorority sisters will be a memory that will never grow hazy. Being able to set a personally lofty goal and achieve it will never become overrated.



Academia will (hopefully) be challenging at whatever university you attend; so, stop limiting yourself to academic pain and perhaps run out of your comfort zone, literally.

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