Boston Marathon-Heart, guts, American Flag
From my perch on the announcers stand at the starting line in Hopkinton, I could see all of them. Every one of the 30,000 Boston Marathon participants from 99 different countries. They took their marks for a multitude of reasons. Some to win. Some to beat a personal best. Some to raise money for charity. But for many, it was just to say “I did it.”
The lasting image for me came when the first division lined up for the starting gun at 8:50am. The Mobility Impaired came to the line as a small and disparate group of perhaps 50 people. There was no fan fare for these entrants. No national anthem. No introductions.
Race director Dave McGillvary went to the starting line to give the group some last minute instructions. I could hear him caution the entrants to “watch out for the wheelchairs, they will be right behind you.”
McGillvary’s concern was sincere. He did not want their Marathon experience spoiled by an early mishap.
When the gun sounded, no one sprinted from the line. They limped. They walked. They jogged if they were able.
The last man to cross the line had the height and stature of an NFL tight end. He carried a huge American flag, and wore a running prosthetic where his left leg should of been.
His name is Jose Luis Sanchez and he was running his first Boston Marathon. His third marathon overall.
Sanchez is a United States Marine who stepped on an IED in 2011 while serving his country in Afghanistan. His life was forever altered just two weeks before he was to finish his tour and head home.
“They picked me up and my leg slid off,” Sanchez told Runner’s World. “They were able to save my other leg and through hard work and determination we are here.”
The flag was a gift from his unit, complete with good luck messages and signatures. This over-sized symbol of patriotism would have been a challenge for any able-bodied man to carry a few miles. But Sanchez would carry it all 26.2 miles and proudly waive it as he beat the odds to the finish line in Copley Square.
“I wanted to recognize veterans and everyone who thinks they can’t do something,” Sanchez said. Sanchez completed the race in 5:46:13 as a charity member of Semper Fi Fund.
“I fought for four or five years to be able to walk and lift my body. Then I wanted to push it further by doing a marathon.”
There are many heroes on Marathon Day. Jose Luis Sanchez was that and then some, and then some more. A true Patriot on Patriot’s Day, displaying a huge flag and an even bigger heart.