How could you take something that shows the goodness of humanity, the spirit of cooperation, and the sublime energy and goodwill of thousands of people, and forever alter it. One of the only places left where everyone runs together—the elite and the regular people. Working people. The 4 am runners. Late night runners. Those who push their babies in strollers. Runners of all shapes and sizes, colors and backgrounds. They run the same path. Or so they say in Boston—they run in the footsteps of giants.
How could you take this great equalizer, this mass of positive energy and effort, this collective moving forward to a goal, a goal that meant countless hours of commitment, energy, and time—and turn it into something horrific.
Running and marathoning is forever changed. We are fundamentally changed.
You see I remember that exact spot. I remember walking through the streets, right after finishing that great race years ago, so tired I wanted to lie down on the pavement and it was nothing but the beauty and kindness of volunteers that shuttled me to water, food, a medal, my family. Walking so vulnerable, so weak, so open, so trusting.
How could this be exploited?
So many people use running to work through grief. To remember a loved one. To work through hardship, challenge, addictions, and find their way back to health. Running has saved me on many occasions, and I do not say that lightly. When my father died suddenly, it was one of the only things that tethered me to the earth. Where I could think freely—even yell, cry, and sprint—in anger. I needed that space. That time. That freedom.
For big city races, that freedom is gone.
You may say I am overreacting. But our kids will never know the freedom we had, and took for granted, in these events. These often life affirming, moving events.
They will never know how running down Boylston street, lined 20 people deep, roaring with cheers for you, as a normal, regular, slow runner, feels. Running among all these people without a trace of fear. Not one inkling. Because that’s how I felt.
When in front of my eyes, finishing the 2001 Boston marathon, a man fell, staggering in the last ¼ mile, fellow runners rushed in, and held him up and they crossed the line together. The tunnel roared, quaked with support, love, encouragement. I was moved. I was carried by this energy in the last ¼ mile, guided by their kindness.
Now that has all changed. We cannot assume goodwill, kindness, and encouragement will prevail. We cannot make any assumptions about our safety. Our big city finishes are forever changed.
I mourn the loss of this. Of the loss in our sport, the loss of our freedom, and the terrible injuries suffered by volunteers, supporters, friends and family members of marathon runners. Most of all, I mourn the lives of the 8 year old child, and the two young adults lost in such a senseless crime.
Other countries already know about this. We have finally, irrevocably, joined them.
There is no turning back.