It is 2:50 p.m. as I begin this…precisely the moment just 24 hours ago that the Boston Marathon was changed forever.
I have written my thoughts down in my head all day…talking to myself out loud in the car…crying quietly, trying to wrap my head around what happened and what sort of person does such things. This is, sadly, not new contemplation.
In the past year we have had people shot to death on college campuses, in movie theatres and in elementary schools. So spectators being blown up at a major sporting event shouldn’t really surprise me any more…in fact I would think we would all just be numb to it by now. As upset as it made my daughters, Molly, my perceptive one, commented rather nonchalantly that this kind of stuff is on the news all the time. (What kind of world have I brought her into?)
My connection to this event was lost on her as she busied herself with little girl things. What bothers her the most is that, like most parents, I constantly tell her that most people are very safe and this this would not likely happen to her…except that taking my children to the marathon is something I have been wanting to do for some time and we have talked about doing.
“Mom, what if we had gone down to watch??”
This aspect of the day hit her hard. The Boston Marathon is a very colorful part of the fabric of my own relationship with running. I know many former winners personally, I know the race director, I have worked the event several times and watched it several more. I can remember where and with whom I watched everyone one since my first in 1979. The Boston Marathon is one of those races that everyone knows about. Thousands upon thousands of absolute non-runners gather on Patriots Day to watch the marathon…It is an event.
Normally at this time on “Marathon Tuesday” race participants would be sightseeing, visiting the Bill Rogers Running Center in Faneuil Hall and walking off the many post marathon parties held after the event. There would be photos being taken at the finish and picnic lunches on the Boston Common. Those runners flying home would be sharing their race stories with the person sitting next to them on the plane. Dave McGillivray, the race director would have long finished his running of the marathon course, which he has done for many years after the conclusion of the event. The Mass State Track Officials would chalk up another marathon pulled off and runners would happily turn their attention forward. None of these things are happening now…in an instant…and then another 14 seconds later all of that changed.
Many people have asked me what I think about the events and I have felt puzzled by this question. What do you think I think??? I think it is terrible. I think the person or people who did this are cowards of the worst kind. I think that an 8 year old boy should be able to watch his Dad run the Boston Marathon and live to brag about him. I think runners should be able to participate in their sport without fear. Just like school children and movie goers and college students should be able to live their lives without fear. I have no political commentary to offer. I am a runner…and by nature running…and runners themselves tend to have a pure outlook and approach to their sport and to life. Human bodies were made to run, there is no special field or rules or equipment…we run because we love how it feels to move this way…it is as simple as that. So my thoughts on the matter are simple. Crazy bad people do crazy bad things…all the time….from the beginning of time… and they apparently will continue to do so. Good people run into the chaos and help. They lay flowers and post their thoughts. They hold fundraisers and candle light vigils. They volunteer, they pray, they listen, and they take action. There are many more good people than there are bad people, but like one rotten apple can spoil a whole bag…one evil person can bring down the greatest marathon in America. It is a terrible truth.
I was asked what I thought this would do to the future of the Boston Marathon and my immediate answer was “Nothing!"
Oh there will be beefed up safety precautions and perhaps more security at the finish line, I am sure a memorial of some sort, but this one bad person doesn’t care about next year’s Boston Marathon. He or she didn’t care about this one. Acts of terror are random in this sense. Oh sure, this event was picked for the media coverage it would get and the number of people…innocent people that would be hurt. But this act wasn’t about the Boston Marathon. This could have been a Bruin’s game or a Taylor Swift Concert. This was about one distorted mind using crazy thoughts to perpetrate crazy violence. The Boston Marathon is about none of those things. It is about personal sacrifice, mental toughness, tenacity and endurance. It is about tradition…Jock Semple, Katherine Switzer, Joanie Benoit and Bill Rogers. It is about the girls from Wellesley and their famous cheering, Heartbreak Hill and that long painful downhill run into the city. It is about that final turn off from Hereford Street and the finish looming ahead. And while those affected by yesterday’s tragedy will never be the same, the things that make “Boston” the marathon of all marathons, will continue as ever before. Because that’s what runners do…we get up, dust ourselves off, contemplate what has happened, and return to the road.
The citizens of Boston will wrap their arms around their running neighbors and give comfort and support. The citizens of America and the world are doing so for Bostonians right now…so what do I think? I think we should all focus on what we can do to affect positive change in our lives and those around us. Be kind to one another, be thoughtful and caring, do the right thing… but most of all...we should continue going to school, taking in a movie, going to college, and attending events like the Boston Marathon…because while only one person can actually win the race, we all win if we continue to live.