All peaceful people are touched by the horrible news of death and injury caused by explosive devices that detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The shock of the attack also hits me as a marathon runner who has experienced the joy of running in that spectacular race. I completed the Boston Marathon in April 2002 and of the 30 marathons I’ve completed, Boston is the one most meaningful to me as a competitor because it is the “Super Bowl” of marathons. It is the only marathon open to the public that is limited to participants who have earned a qualifying time in a previous race, thereby elevating the event to the sport’s highest stature. This year’s Boston Marathon was the 117th annual. No other marathon has Boston’s history and prestige.
While at home in Baltimore this morning, I tuned the television to live coverage of the Boston Marathon. The race coverage brought back a stream of memories and emotions from my own experience there: great memories and powerful emotions. I marvel at the incredible strength and fitness of the world’s best, and I’m reminded of the many thousands running behind them (of which I once was one) who are so privileged to be running the same historic course. As the TV coverage continued, I laced up my shoes and embarked on a training run with my running partner Megan (who completed the Boston Marathon in 2011) and we spoke as we ran through Baltimore that seeing the televised race was an inspiration and it quickened our training pace.
We completed our run and watched the end of the Boston Marathon on TV- again, marveling at not just the amazing athletes but the incredible spectacle that surrounds them. The Boston Marathon is a civic holiday. Schools are closed, work places are closed, the Red Sox play a morning baseball game at nearby Fenway Park and more than one million people line the race route and pack Copley Square in downtown Boston for the finish. The holiday is Patriot’s Day. It’s a celebration in observance of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War. This year’s Boston Marathon field of 27,000 runners included participants from all 50 states (448 from Maryland) and from nations across the world. You don’t have to be a dedicated runner, or an athlete at all, to appreciate the spectacle that is Boston. It’s an American celebration, a world event.
So our souls are shaken when celebration turns into pain. I can’t help but think of that bright April day 11 years ago when I ran past the area where today explosions rocked joyous Boylston Street- just strides from the finish line in downtown Boston. Blood and terror on what was a joyous street- it’s a sad and sickening scene. It frightens me to see any act of violence and terrorism. It hits even harder when such a shocking act occurs at what is a celebration that I’ve been so fortunate to participate in myself. But I’m heartened by the notion that most people are good, and as a society we’re strong. Like a marathon, life has its challenges. We get up when we stumble and continue in our journey the best we can.