For elite, amateur, and recreational runners, The Boston Marathon is a rite of passage, a distinct honor that runners who qualify to run or run for charity purposes will cherish forever. Monday, the horrific attack at The Boston Marathon overshadowed the accomplishment for some and completely took away the opportunity for others. Qualifying runners and charity runners alike spend countless months training for a race like The Boston Marathon. They pour in hours of sweat, hard work, determination, and for some, fundraising, to be able to board the school buses that take them out to the start line in Hopkinton. Along the iconic route, runners encounter all the things that make this race so revered, famed, and memorable - the downhill first half of the course, “Screech Tunnel” at Wellesley College, the Newtown Fire Station, a statue of salute to Johnny Kelley who ran 61 Boston Marathons, the infamous Heartbreak Hill, cookouts with thousands of college students at Boston College, the notorious Citgo sign noting 1 mile left to go, and ultimately the feeling of excitement that overwhelms runners when they make the final left hand turn onto Boylston Street with thousands of people screaming in support and admiration. In an instant Monday, the pain and gratification of running 26.2 miles was taken away by a cowardly and hideous act of violence, and replaced by dismay and a different type of pain for everyone in Boston and across the country.
Unless you live under a rock, everyone knows who Peyton Manning, Alex Rodriguez, and LeBron James are, but hardly anyone in the United States, or world for that matter, has ever heard of the two winners of The Boston Marathon on Monday. You won’t catch national sports networks devoting hours to covering marathons and endurance events like you would the Super Bowl or March Madness. In local sporting news, endurance events are briefly covered and might get a segment on the 6 o’clock news or an article in the newspaper, but are soon after forgotten by the general public. Monday however, at the site of the world’s most renowned running event in the world, a marathon was center stage in the world for the most unfortunate reason. Distance running and endurance events are not main stream sporting news, and the athletes that pursue these endeavors are not looking for the recognition and limelight of stardom, yet they push themselves to often unthinkable boundaries for the satisfaction of personal triumph. It’s not only for personal satisfaction that some runners and endurance athletes compete in a marathon or event. For some competitors, they choose to compete to raise awareness and funds for causes such as cancer research, wounded soldier support, hunger initiatives, and the list goes on and on. They make calls and send out e-mails to family members and friends, knock on doors of strangers, and have fundraisers to raise money for charities that are close to their heart. Every year, millions of dollars are raised in endurance events across the world to support charities. The people who participate in honor of those charities are special individuals who don’t receive the notoriety they deserve and often times they don’t want the recognition, they just want to do their part to make a difference. Every year, the runners in the last starting corral of The Boston Marathon are those who gained entry into the race by raising enough money to support their charity. Monday, the majority of those runners didn’t even get a chance to fulfill those promises they made to the donors because of this unthinkable act of violence.
Personally, I am in complete shock, heartache, and amazement by what took place on Monday in Boston. Marathons and endurance events aren’t just something that I do by myself and for myself. Of course I enjoy them and the training involved, but I also compete in them because my friends do them. I enjoy the camaraderie and friendly competition that a marathon or triathlon encompasses, and while I am out there to get the best out of myself, I also want the best for my friends and competitors. I don’t have a wife or children, but a lot of my friends do, and I’ve seen how events like The Boston Marathon or an Ironman requires an entire family and friend “support network” along the way. Long hours are spent training for events like these, often taking the person preparing for the race away from home for hours upon hours just to make it to the start line prepared, and it takes a whole family’s commitment. Once event day rolls around, the whole “support network” of family and friends can celebrate the accomplishment of their spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, friend, co-worker, etc. Monday’s tragedy didn’t injure any runner directly, but it did injure the “support network”, wounding and killing friends, family members, and complete strangers that were standing on Boylston Street to celebrate the accomplishments of the runners. Locally, a coach and member of the Charlotte running and triathlon community, and her family were there to support a family member and they were severely hurt during the attack. While I don’t know personally know them, the outpouring of love and well wishes from the community in Charlotte praying for their quick recoveries and asking what they can do to help just shows the true support that everyone needs in times like these. Whether you participate in events or are just there to watch and cheer on friends or a family member, we have all at one time been a part of that “support network” that was attacked on Monday.