Following the tragedy witnessed in Boston on Monday, many have expressed concern as to the safety of similar sporting events. Some have even questioned if marathons of this scale will ever take place again. One must remember that marathons are not simply a competition, but a community fueled by family-like support. After April 15th in Boston these values were threatened. Sirens wailed, debris flew, people suffered. Fear overthrew exhilaration, confusion replaced clarity and terror succeeded joy.
As spring finally dawns on us, runners take to the streets, pounding pavement and logging miles. These runners share an unspoken common bond. They understand the thrill felt as an audience floods the streets, empowering them to keep going despite aching limbs. They are trained individuals who have come to terms with everything from anti-chafe balm to lost toenails. As athletes, they persevere through all conditions whether it be scorching heat or bitter rain. They fight through the pain, tape up their blisters, tie their laces and carry on.
Having two marathon runners as parents, I have attended many marathons and have watched them pass the finish line. I’m not a seasoned athlete. In fact, I am very new to the sport. After many sedentary years of watching my parents register in countless runs across North America, I finally pushed myself to get involved too. Even as a spectator, the atmosphere and sense of camaraderie among runners is magnetic. Monday’s tragedy really hit too close to home for me.
The running community is large and strong with athletes of all ages, ethnicity and skill levels joining together in early morning running groups, training sessions and full marathons. These men and women epitomize dedication, stamina and perseverance, displaying resilience despite unfavourable conditions and surroundings. A marathon like Boston would take years of training to even qualify.
Marathon runners and their supporters, together with race volunteers and emergency personnel, made the decision to persevere through this tragedy. They refused to allow the fear, confusion and terror to define them. Locals and visitors alike rushed to donate blood at local hospitals, helped the injured to safety and supported each other during this time of need. Despite the dread and shock felt internationally, the values that motivate runners each day rippled throughout the city of Boston.
Today is a day of reflection. A day to think of the heroes dedicated to saving lives, the capacity of countless individuals to act quickly despite the horrors surrounding them and the altruism of those who opened their doors to those unable to return to their locked-down hotels.
The spirit of runners cannot be broken. They gathered in Boston on Monday to show just that, instilling in us the strength to persevere despite tragedy. In future marathons, runners will stand in solidarity remembering the April day when their values were threatened. These are the same values that keep them running through sleet, that put them through months of painful physiotherapy, that keep them running for hours and allow them to still have a smile on their face as they cross the finish line. No amount of terror or violence can threaten the powerful kinship of runners.