Today the 2014 Boston Marathon was held. This year, above any other, was poignant in that the running community was joined by the nation at large in remembering the tragic events of a year ago when terrorists wreaked havoc at one of the worlds greatest sporting events. This,of course, is no ordinary event. The 118 year old race mixes the best in the world with gifted amateurs, road hardened marathon warriors and first time qualifiers in a multicolored river of humanity which expresses all that is good about athleticism and fitness. It proves that we don’t have to be world beaters to compete or take part, we just have to meet and beat the challenge of the hardest race of all. Irrespective of age, gender or relative speed the act of qualifying for Boston or ‘BQing’, as it is often called, unites thousands of runners for a few short hours in ways they will relate for the rest of their lives.
Boston stories abound. Everything I hear about it radiates magical energy and almost always brings beaming smiles to the faces of those talking of the day they ran Boston.
I, like so many, had friends running today. I watched online as best I could while trying to conjure a semblance of interest in my work as those I followed forged their way through the streets of Boston. I wrestled with the web site, baulked at the fitfull “live’ feed and cheered as each of the runners I was following hit key points in the race. I too was getting as much of MY Boston experience as I could handle considering the inconveninet and self evident pitfalls of having to work at the same time.
Michele Anthony was representing my club having trained hard and moulding herself into a superb marathon runner. She ran her way to an experience she will cherish for life on a day that seemed perfect for completing a marathon. Her recovery beer was well earned……………add to this the race of Angela Chambers, another club mate, who somehow completed the course despite having battled chronic injury for months. The injury blighted her training but Angela was not to be deterred. She went to Boston having qualified. She was determined to be a part of this most emotional of Boston Marathons. This is the essence of running and marathon running in particular. A personal best would be nice, but the reality of Boston is encapsulated in the elation of qualification, the inspiring joy of simply being there and above all participating. Angela’s acheivement ranks with all others on the day because she like Michle and 36,000 others reclaimed the finish line for running and humanity. Add to this a fine run by fellow Brit Helen Mckenzie who looks just a mite like Paula Radcliffe, and a grand day was complete.
A few months ago I was running from the Running Wild store in Fort Lauderdale when I rubbed shoulders briefly with Brian Keno. He did not know me but I was aware of him and his illustrious running past. Subsequent to this I read his Facebook posts.
I learned and understood that the events of 2013 had affected him so greatly that he resolved to run the 2014 Boston marathon despite having not raced seriously for a few years. He trained hard and set his mind to ‘do my part’. For Brian , the terrosts could not and would not be allowed to win. I added his race number to my tracking list and watched in awe as he tore the course up. Brain is 52, a mere three years my junior yet he ran this notoriously difficuly marathon more than an hour quicker than I ran my own single marathon amid the realtively genteel boroughs of Houston in 2013. Today he ran a time of 2:46 ranking highly in every category that can be thought of. I was left speechless by this gargantuan effort, this utter expression of human will and carbon steel resolve. Brian still does not know me that well, but through his efforts I feel I know him much better. His effort this day said everything that coud be said about this wonderful sport and the people that become involved. All I can say is ‘Hail Brian, a true hero on the day’.
In my own feeble way I have shied away from training for another marathon because of a painful knee. Having witnessed what Brian did I have no more excuses. I will never run as fast as him, but I will do everything in my power to qualify
( 3:40 for my age group – meaning I have to cut 14 minutes from my PR!!). Brian has been an inspiration today and I am certain I am not alone in saying that. Thanks Brian. Running won today and you were an ambassador of the highest measure. Be proud.
All that remains is for me to relate my experience of last year, first published on Facebook a few days ago.
BOSTON 2013 RECALLED
A year ago this day I was walking through the infusion suite at work when I stopped by a patients chair. My attention was drawn to street scenes of chaos, smoke, emergency vehicle sirens and what appeared to be sheer panic. As my senses focussed I realized this was happening at the Boston Marathon.
My mind struggled to grasp the vista that was playing out before my eyes. Surely not. This is a marathon. ‘THE’ marathon in the eyes of many. Why would it be wrecked by explosions?
Nothing made sense. Everyone at work knows me as a runner. I was being peppered with questions :
‘Do you have friends in the race?’
‘Have you heard from anyone?’
‘Hey, Mark. They think it’s a bomb!’
But it’s the Boston marathon. I kept repeating this over and over in my head. No one would attack that! The race I had wanted so dearly to qualify for in my first marathon a few months earlier was under attack.
I stood transfixed by the garish headlines of the CNN news feed. Every unsubstantiated snippet of ‘news’ was being repeated ad nauseum. Video news loops caused an almost hypnotic reaction. I simply could not function. The whole ugly circus rooted me to the spot.
As I regained a modicum of sense I thought of friends. My scrambled brain tried to recall those I knew to be running. I then attempted to figure who, among my friends, would finish around the 4:09 mark when it was said the bomb exploded.
My text messages lit up, my phone rang. Others, those that knew me were similarly as confused. Friends asked if I was there. They knew I wasn’t, but they still asked. They opined : did I know anyone running? Had I heard anything?
Panic gripped irrespective of being at the race or watching on TV.
Since then ……….
A Year has passed. The running community has paid tributes to the fallen, raised money for and awareness of the victims and their families suffering. We came together as only we know how.
Today we remember. We remember the horror that was visited on this, the most inclusive and all embracing of sports.
No matter our age, ability or level of training we can all run and enjoy the camaraderie felt by those who are inspired by the joy of ‘the run’. We can rub shoulders with the best, compare stories of personal journeys towards fitness and personal achievement. We are ALL part of the family of runners that train together, race together and now grieve together.
Because so many of us run there is a unique sense of loss when events like this occur. We ALL feel it. Why? Because it could just as easily have been one of us. And, last of all, we share grief at the bewildering notion that anyone, no matter how politically crazed, could unleash such pain, suffering and horror on innocent runners and bystanders.
They shall not forgotten. Today. We will stand silent at the appointed time and remember them. We reflect on how our world changed in one senseless and destructive moment of insanity.
4/15/2013 will forever live with us.