Reflections on 2013 Boston Marathon
“Hey, ya look like a runnah. Ya here ta do Bahstun?” Imagine being greeted with that line by a cab driver on Friday as you arrive at Logan Airport. The race is Monday – Patriot’s Day, three days away – and it’s apparent the city has already accepted you with open arms. Everywhere you look are signs, banners, and billboards welcoming you to the Boston Marathon. The first, the oldest, the most famous. You and 27,000 others from all over the world earned your way here by meeting a qualifying time or by raising a target goal for a charity. You belong here and Boston is already celebrating your achievement.
For one hundred and seventeen years Bostonians have cheered their local citizens and guests from every corner of the world to that finish line on Boylston St. The spectators spread out over 26.2 miles have exceeded a half million people in recent years. They shout and applaud as if you were a superstar for the Celtics, Bruins, Patriots or Red Sox. Crazy thing is that you are as average and normal as those people screaming your name. Like them, you have a job, a family, and responsibilities. What links you is a shared passion – the passion to run in this race.
I have been a runner for over 40 years. I have coached runners and walkers for 30 of those years and have been blessed to own a running store in Salem for the last fifteen plus years. I have personally run the Boston Marathon three times and plan to run it again. Today, I’m still working my way through the tragedy we all witnessed on Monday.
On April 15, 2013 the finish line on Boylston Street was senselessly splattered with the blood of innocent spectators. Within a few terrifying moments, those spectators in Boston were taken from a world of Boston Marathon Day magic to an agonizing reality of a world tainted by evil and infected with fear.
It is true. We runners and walkers shut down parks, cause traffic to be re-routed and create inconveniences for those not directly involved. However, the trade-off is typically a city-wide happening that celebrates health, hard work, and personal achievement. In cities and towns worldwide, road races offer participants and fans a unique opportunity to use the roads for a different purpose – to raise money for charities and to challenge ourselves to be better. The intention is to provide for the good of many while offering our hometowns a free spectator event. I pray to God that has not changed – not now, not ever.
In my book, innate human joy and the unconquerable feeling of personal achievement trumps anything an evil mind can ever hope to defeat. My wife, Susan, and I have witnessed that countless times as we have cheered runners, walkers, friends and family members to their own personal goals. Accepting a challenge, whatever it may be, and continuing forward to a finish line, wherever it is, defines us as human beings. We cannot let fear and terror take that sense of accomplishment from our hearts and souls.
On Monday, three people were killed and many still cling to the hope that their lives will somehow be normal again. Boston showed the world how to respond immediately to an unthinkable act of violence. I believe Boston will also show us how strong and resilient we all should be when faced with tragedy.
Put on your shoes, Salem. Let’s join up with walkers and runners in Boston and worldwide and send a clear message that you can’t take away our streets or our dreams.