I've been a fan of the Boston Marathon for years. No, I don't ever plan to attempt to qualify for the race or run it with a charity. The race looks hilly and frankly not that scenic. So why am I a fan? It's the vibe of the race, its runners striving for years to qualify for the race, the international elites that frequent the event and the amazing spectators who I'd love to bus up to the local marathon here to show our own crowds how marathon spectating is REALLY done. Add to that, that it falls on Patriots Day, celebrating the North American equivalent of Pheidippides mythic run to announce victory through local legend Paul Revere. Marathoning and Patriotism what a beautiful combination, right? Someone, or a group of someones didn't think so yesterday when they dropped at least three packages that lead to two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
I make a point of watching the marathon every year. It's one of the best covered marathon events in North America, in my opinion. For an hour before the marathon viewers can watch interviews with not only the elites but the amazing charity runners and celebrated locals. This year a special moment of silence was held for those 26 victims of the Sandyhook Elementary shootings. They had a group of runners running the event, and a special banner set up at mile marker 26. There was the usual debate when the wheelchair division begins, the commentators argued safety concerns over patronizing the wheelchair athletes as they were led, NASCAR style down the first hill to avoid any potential collisions (this does not happen in any other wheelchair marathon by the way). It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining but the heat was dramatically cooler than last year's heat wave, leading most people to call it perfect running weather. I watched the women's race as this year it was more interesting than the men's race, cheering quietly for Shaylene to find an extra gear to make it to the podium. I was disappointed when the Canadian Josh Cassidy didn't medal this year, after winning the mens wheelchair division last year. It was clear those athletes that had been absent from last year's race due to the upcoming Olympic Games, had returned.
After the winners had finished I went about my day, coming back after an hour to watch the local tv station interview tired runners walking up Heartbreak hill. After a few minutes I turned off the coverage. Then my husband texted me and joked about me watching the marathon. I joked back, then he asked if I had watched the bombings. I joked back "haha" thinking it wasn't his usual humor to joke like that...but whatever, I brushed it off and frankly it didn't even occur to me to turn on the tv to check. I mean-who would really bomb a marathon? WHY? The thought lingered, but with supper to be made and some chores to be done I put in the back of my mind until my husband and daughter arrived home. Then my husband said he was not joking, this really happened. I was in shock and could only repeat what he said and ask why. We watched the tv coverage in shock and silence.
Today brings no better answer to my question, why? Amby Burfoot (past winner of the Boston Marathon and writer for Runner's World) says this was an attack on our democratic rights, a west-coast political analyst says he thinks the attackers are a domestically-based Islamic extremists based on the size of the bombs, the style they were deployed and the location of the attack. Whoever is responsible hasn't yet been named but I hope whoever is responsible is found quickly and brought to justice. I'm hopeful that with so many spectators around the finish line someone has video or pictures that can help lead to an arrest.
Does this change my mind about running a major city marathon? It certainly gives me something to consider going forward. Frankly I would have put security concerns at the bottom of my "things to worry about" list for a marathon, now it's right up there beside proper training. But this won't stop me from racing, and it shouldn't stop any other runner either. If it does, whoever did this will have had their desired effect on all of us, inspiring fear so great we don't participate in the things in life we love.
Running a marathon is a celebration. It's a celebration of months of training, focus and support by friends and family. As another runner once said, the race is your victory lap. Let us not forget those who were lost but remember the spirit of the marathon cannot be quashed by cowards.