The 118th running of the Boston Marathon, which will be contested on the latest possible day, April 21, the third Monday of April, is a mere five days away.
Yesterday, runners, victims of last year's senseless acts, first responders, and other heroes of April 15, 2013, commemorated the day, and pledged to, beginning with next Monday's race, show the world that runners, and the city of Boston, are determined to continue the fine tradition of the world's oldest continuous marathon.
But the most important element of the Boston Marathon, and tragically, the victim of last year's heinous acts is the crowd.
Five days out, I'm not going to predict the winners of the race, but I am going to predict this: The greatest marathon spectators, at the world's greatest marathon, are going to be greater than ever next Monday. They will raise the roof off the place. Participants better be ready for some goose bump moments, because the crowd will provide many.
Of course, spectators will be twenty-deep at the starting line, and the roar that will begin with the wheel chair runners, will continue for the fleet-footed elite athletes, and will increase, as wave after wave, an estimated 36,000 runners, cross the start stripe.
In quaint New England towns of Ashland, Framingham, and Natick, spectators, some of whom reserved a spot with their lawn chairs the night before, will be raucous.
Hand slaps, fist bumps, and orange slices will abound. Spectators will call the runners by name, or by the moniker on their singlet. Last year, I frequently heard, "Go Oregon."
The girls of Wellesley can be identified by their high-pitched cheers, audible from a quarter mile away. Women runners get the loudest cheers. Some male runners receive coed kisses.
The crowds on the Newton Hills help ease the pain of the inclines, positioned at a nasty place in the race.
At Boston College, I incited last year's crowd by yelling, "Go Jesuits." The reaction was deafening.
Along the long stretch of Commonwealth Avenue, it sounds like one continuous clap. At Fenway, crowds are thick.
Finally, the right turn on Hereford Street is the "tunnel." You know, the one in which the players wait, as their names are being called for the game. It is almost eerily quiet.
Runners explode out of the tunnel when they make the left onto Boylston Street. It's the Rose Bowl, Michigan's Big House, and Fenway Park all rolled into one. Each runner is greeted with hoots and cheers, as though he or she has won the race.
In fact, each runner IS a winner.
Because the crowd, the incredible spectators, make the Boston Marathon what it is.