Heartbreak Hill in Newton has been a beautiful, tree-lined stretch of anguish for every Boston marathon runner. But this year, with the bombings at the finish line, the heartbreak shifted.
“Last week there was no question about being able to go outside," said Hannah Murphy, a junior at Boston College. "I think people are picking back up and getting back out. I think it’s looking good so far.”
Murphy is walking up the hill on her way to class. And she says the events of last week are still on her mind.
“It seems like it was all a really bad dream," she said. "I think it’s just really horrible that something so bad put a stigma on something so good.”
Murphy happens to be passing the 20-mile mark of the Boston Marathon, which has returned to a quiet, weekday suburban landscape. People are out jogging, a few mothers push children in strollers.
Just ahead, at the 21st mile mark, near Boston College, Professor Bill Ozaslan is walking to class in a marathon jacket. He only had a half mile left when the race stopped suddenly. Ozaslan says he’s made peace with what happened, but he says the mood on campus has changed.
“I think it’s quite somber but it’s spring," he said. "We will finish the race."
I asked him if he'd run again next year.
"I think so," he said. "If I can get the number. My calves and quads are hurting so bad, that’s all. Otherwise our spirit is alive and our mental and physical faculties will come back and we’ll do it again.”
Farther down the marathon route, at mile 23, Elina Tochilnikova is waiting for the T at the Chestnut Hill Ave. stop. She says the new day – and the weather – are lifting her spirits, too.
“I’m feeling revived, very hopeful," Tochilnikova said. "I wish those affected by the blast and their loved ones to heal as swiftly as possible. They’re in my prayers.”
But some people still feel a bit uneasy, especially those closer to the blasts. In Coolidge Corner, mile 24, people are running errands at Trader Joe's and getting sandwiches on their lunch break. Margaret Kimball says she can’t help but compare this day with last week.
“I was here," Kimball said. "I was watching the marathon right outside here. It was much more exciting. Everybody was outside, it was really loud and celebratory. And then it started to feel really scary. I still feel a little unsettled.”
There’s little evidence along the race route that there was a marathon last week, until you get to Kenmore Square. That’s where the “Boston Strong” signs appear. Near Copley Square, as far along Boylston Street as he can go, is Jeff Rogers. He’s standing behind the makeshift memorial at a metal barricade.
“We just came down here to see what’s going on," Rogers said. "We wanted to be here. It’s good to see things are largely getting back to normal. There’s folks down on the Common and the Public Garden. It’s been a really tough week. It’s just sad.”
Shortly after I spoke to Rogers, the moment of silence began, and the hundreds of people gathered were quiet for more than 2 minutes. It was a stark contrast to a week ago, when this was the loudest place in the city – packed with runners and cheering spectators. Based on everyone’s promises, it’ll look – and sound - that way again next year.