Marathon Memorial at Boston Public Library

More than 600 pairs of shoes

In the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing, shoes were left at the finish line to honor those injured. (josefkubes/Thinkstock)
In the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing, shoes were left at the finish line to honor those injured.

When nearly 5,000 runners' dreams of finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon ended with a bomb blast, survivors left thousands of objects at the Boylston Street finish line to honor the injured and pay their respects. Many makeshift memorials fade in memory and physical space, but a curated collection of these objects is now on display at the Boston Public Library until May 11.

Curator Rainey Tisdale dug through boxes of small tokens to create the display, titled "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial."  Of all the mementos­—T-shirts, posters, flowers, hats, and more—Tisdale was uniquely moved by the donation of more than 600 pairs of running shoes. Each shoe's story and significance, she notes, is readily visible.

"They've got all sorts of wear marks on the soles from each runner's tread. And there's all the ways each runner has adapted the shoe so that they would get them through all those miles," Tisdale said in an interview with National Public Radio. "They have messages for the people they were running for. Maybe they're running for a cancer survivor. They have their little tags from their charity team."

Of the 1,200 shoes she received, Tisdale chose 150 pairs for the display. The shoes are arranged in pairs densely crowded into a square, evoking the image of a pack of runners. 

Tisdale says the shoes embody hope as well as healing. For the 36,000 Boston Marathon qualifiers running on April 21, that's plenty of incentive to keep going.

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