Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston: A Perspective

The Boston Marathon is, for many runners, the pinnacle of our sport.

When you tell someone that you run marathons, most of the time their follow-up is: "Have you run Boston?" Runners use the term "Boston Qualifier" (or in our world of abbreviations, BQ) as if it has supernatural power. There is no spectacle quite like Boston. It's the oldest. It's the most storied. It's an epic course that's both beautiful and brutal at the same time. The towns and villages along the route have assumed an anthropomorphic quality. We talk about places like Hopkinton, Wellesley, Newton, hell, even the Citgo sign like they're living, breathing things. In running, this is unique to Boston.

The Boston Marathon is representative of its people. A diverse route showcases life in Massachusetts, and on Patriot's Day - a distinctly New England holiday - there are only two things that matter: The Sox, and The Marathon. Where else can you find crowds lining 26.2 miles of road, a moving parade that features just two turns, cheering and partying like it's the Superbowl? It's a blue collar race in a hard-nosed city, where it's not uncommon to see a guy in the crowd wearing a Celtics sweatshirt and a Red Sox cap sporting a black eye, with a cheap beer in his hand. He'll probably offer you that beer, too.

There is no race that means as much to more people than Boston. Ask someone who's run about their experience, and be prepared to be there a while. Boston's more than just a race, it's a way of life. So to think about the events of yesterday's 117th edition of the race makes it even harder to digest. It's supposed to be a celebration of a remarkable accomplishment, and in a matter of seconds all that was good about the day was torn down.

And in another matter of seconds, everything that makes Boston what it is rose up and illustrated the resiliency of our community. An older competitor was knocked down some hundreds of feet from the finish line. He got up and finished. The emergency personnel, including the race officials, transitioned from race duty to triage unit without blinking. Don't forget, there were still a few thousand people on the course that now had to be diverted on the fly, and the threat that existed was still unknown.

We always say it, but runners are a special community. This was especially true yesterday. They'll disregard their own personal safety to help another. While we will now undoubtedly see some changes to not just major marathons, but all events, don't for one second think that the Boston Marathon won't return with the same vigor and enthusiasm it has always displayed.

It's important to recognize the efforts of the organizations who performed exceptionally yesterday. They'll all tell you it's just them doing their job, but in any situation like that, it's still incredible:

City of Boston, including Boston Police Department, Fire Department, the countless doctors, nurses, first aid, ambulance personnel, the mayor's office, local hospitals, federal agents, SWAT

And especially the Boston Athletic Assocation and the Boston Marathon team for their swift and smart reaction, making sure those remaining on course and those in the surrounding area were brought to safety.

Most of all, thanks to the dozens of onlookers who rushed to the aid of those wounded. People like them are truly a Godsend.


Busch Light said...

Awesome post Ryan! Good job by you and Meg on the interview. Glad everyone got home safe.

Mike said...

Great post, Ryan. Scary and sad all around. While I wasn't there this year, it hit close to home. I agree with everything you've said here.

Lillian said...

Well said, Ryan.
So glad the group made it home safely. I have not been to Boston for several years, but I think this hit close to home for any runner, anywhere.