Boston Marathon helps transform Altoona man

April 2013 marks the eight-year anniversary of my relocation from central PA to the Boston area.

For the first five years of that time, my wife and I lived in a condo that was located on mile 22 of the iconic Boston Marathon route. Because of this, Patriots Day immediately became an important event in our fast-paced lives in the city.

My initial impression of Boston was that it was a beautiful and fascinating city, but the people were sometimes rude, very impatient and quite self-centered. After attending my first marathon, some of those premature feelings had changed.

I was surprised to witness an abundance of kindness, positive energy and mutual respect that resonated all over the city.

People of all ages came out in droves to steadfastly support the determined runners and their numerous philanthropic causes, regardless of the erratic weather that springtime in New England can present. The collective human spirit was alive and vibrant, and it was clearly etched into the hearts of the people here.

The experience had a profound impact on my transition to the area, and I have not missed attending a marathon since.

This past week, my wife and I happened to be only a mile or so away from the finish line when the tragedy struck. We witnessed the wave of terror and grief that traveled swiftly up the road from the finish line.

Police swarmed our location in Kenmore Square by the dozens and began stopping confused runners from completing their quest that they trained so diligently for. The restaurant-bar that we were at went on lockdown for our protection and every patron sat silent, with all eyes glued to the televisions.

We didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of the events unfolding around us until we made it home later that evening.

It was a painful week for our nation, and Bostonians now bear the physical and emotional scars to prove it.

But in the course of such difficult times, I have a better understanding of the true character of this city and look past the occasional ugly traits that aggravated me in the past.

Patriot’s Day, our Marathon Day, will never be the same but not because of the heightened security and complexity that awaits the future of the race. It’s because of the resiliency of this city. Bostonians are tough and courageous, loyal and persistent and undeniably strong.

I guarantee you that next year’s marathon will be the biggest celebration this town has ever seen. And you can bet we’ll be there, defending our turf and cheering harder than ever until every runner crosses that finish line.

My home will always be Altoona, but I’m proud to say that Boston, its spirit and marathon have etched a special place in my heart.

Paul Beard is a native of Altoona and an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan.