Many years have passed since I ran the Boston Marathon. I used to work in the Boston Athletic Association’s hospitality suite for the sponsored runners as well. It was there I met Joan Benoit Samuelson, worked with Ernst van Dyk, and shook hands with Little Richard. I also met Jacqueline Gareau there, the actual woman that won the 1980 race, not Rosie Ruiz. It all seemed so long ago, until this past Monday, April 15th. I was driving out of Boston, not there for the race, when my phone started going berserk. I had checked the times of the few people I knew running the race that day and could not imagine what could be going on. Turns out, nobody could imagine what was going on would ever happen there.
Cities that play host to marathons find a cohesive bond that brings out the best in its citizens. With the exception of last year’s New York City Marathon debacle, a marathon has unprecedented support from the public. History has shown that the marathon is one of the only spectator sporting events that bystanders can be so close to the champions and that everyday runners can compete on the same course as those very champions. I have been in New York City for their Marathon, watched the throngs of people cheer on the runners and yell their support. Nearly every street was lined with people, in the bitter cold. They know that the runners are giving all they have to complete the course and the spectators want them all to do it.
The race on that Monday was one of those days made to run; the weather was near perfect. Everything seemed to have gone just as everyone had wished it could go, until that fateful moment. After that moment, everything before it was washed away. The anger and outrage that followed was there for many reasons, many of which you cannot understand unless you have been in Boston for the race, let alone run in it.
The Boston Marathon is the Mecca of running. I do not use that analogy haphazardly, but instead to put it in perspective for those that might not quite understand. I only trained for marathons so I could qualify to run in the Boston Marathon. I qualified on my first attempt, barely. Runners may run for charities to get a bib number, but those runners that are the obsessive, devout distance runners want to qualify; it validates their being there.
To run in Boston, to finish, is to reach the end of a religious journey. Once you have done it, no one can take that away from you. The race on Monday was defiled by a senseless act and the entire community responded by coming together to rebuke the attack.
While many other people around the world wondered why a community would be so outraged by an act that injured relatively few in the view of the world, the running community of the world understood. New York City understood. London ran its marathon the next weekend and they understood. It was not just an affront to a group of people running for 26.2 miles, it was a community coming together to support people running for various causes, fundraisers, and the memories of loved ones. It was a city supporting those people running for all of those reasons, whether the people watching and cheering knew the reasons or not. THAT was the reason for the anger and outrage.
What happened on that Monday was a despicable act, perpetrated by ignorant, hate-filled individuals. The people of Boston showed that they will not waiver in their support of that city’s marathon. The Boston Marathon is THE marathon, and that will never change.