The final turn of the Boston Marathon takes runners onto the straightaway of Boylston Street. It’s wide and raucous, a joyous open-air tunnel of humanity a few hundred yards from a finish line now forever changed.
It’s the final iconic segment of a marathon that, while not the most difficult nor the most scenic, remains running’s greatest benchmark, a mixture of the small-city rural start in Hopkinton; the effervescent women of Wellesley College and the challenges of the Newton hills in the middle; and the monolithic, 60-by-60-foot Citgo sign 1 mile from the finish.
I don’t know how to comprehend terrorism or what to make of how the media covers it. It’s baffling reporters grilled a surgeon on national television after he had just performed six operations on victims of the explosion. Or that a YouTube video showing looters stealing Boston Marathon apparel had nearly 700,000 views in the first four days after the marathon. Why was the video even made from the television broadcast? And who are the looters?
I didn’t understand any of it—until my own, personal reality check of the good and heroism of others. Of surgeons going to work without being asked after just finishing the marathon. And volunteers helping strangers and residents along the course, inviting them into their homes.
When tragedies occur, citizens from Sandy Hook, Conn., to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts speak of resolve and resilience.
How race organizers will move forward is unknown. But the community, including runners, volunteers and shop owners, will embrace the event again in 2014 with a new fervor. It will be special, respectful—an homage to the tragedy to Patriots’ Day, April 15, 2013.
Veterans and first-time runners will experience the still-proud tradition and hopefully without fear. Other runners will continue to run other marathons or go on training runs with friends or on solo lunch-hour treks.
When we run—or go for a walk or ride a bike or swim or hike or help each other through difficult times—we win, and evil be damned.
(Author’s note: I completed the Boston Marathon in 1991 and 1996. This article was originally published in the Sacramento News & Review, April 25, 2013.)