A View from Kenya: Looking Back at the Boston Marathon Bombings, by Justin Lagat

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Justin Lagat wrote this reflective piece on the bombings at the Boston Marathon and its effect on the sport. Justin does a weekly column titled A View from Kenya for RunBlogRun.com

Desisa_LelisaFH-BostonMar13.jpg
Lelisa Desisa, 2013 BAA Boston Marathon winner, 
photo by PhotoRun.net

Looking Back at the Boston Marathon Bombings, by Justin Lagat

When the bomb blasts happened around the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April this year, many feared that the popularity of the event and the attendance in other major city marathons that were still to happen later in the year would be affected negatively. But, looking back now as the year comes to an end, the Boston bombings might have brought more recognition, success and popularity to the sport.

Aside from the marathon itself, running in general is one of the careers in the world that has been able to transform lives of so many individuals who would have ended up miserable, but instead became heroes and role models in society through their running skills. In fact, it may be the only path to success that doesn't need material wealth for one to succeed in it. Many runners who lacked money to further their studies, start up businesses, or buy facilities to participate in others sporting activities, have been able to find refuge in running; because the only investment needed is one's pure hard work and determination as a capital to begin it. Many who could not even get money to buy running shoes have been able to start running barefooted and ended up succeeding in their lives.

Those who feared that the worst was going to happen to marathon running after the unfortunate incident in Boston might have just forgotten one thing; the nature of the people who run these marathons. Marathon runners are not just like the rest. It is not everybody who has the courage and determination to run 42km and endure all the training and time that it takes to do that. Marathon runners are lion-hearted; in fact, other people who are too weak to walk a kilometer or two, leave alone run, at times view marathon runners as maniacs. What they do not understand is that marathon runners are resilient people who would not be easily deterred from achieving their goals - especially not by some cowardly acts like the Boston bombings.

Just six days after the Boston marathon, an impressive number of 34,631 runners turned up again to run the London marathon. And, as though to show that not only are marathon runners like a family to each other, but the city marathon organizers too, the London marathon organizers, decided to donate $3.00 from every runner who crossed the finish line to the Boston bomb blast victims.

Starting from the London marathon, security measures began to be enhanced in other marathon events across the world. At this year's Nairobi marathon, for instance, where I was participating in the event for my sixth time, I noticed a number of new measures that were put in place to ensure more security for the runners. I had to go through three security points where I was searched well before reaching the place assigned for changing and leaving luggage. Those who were carrying anything other than running gears and phones had to explain well why they had them. Even drinks could not be trusted and those who had them were asked to drink them all before crossing the first security check point. After all, there was plenty of water being offered by the organizers and I didn't see the need for one to carry drinks to the starting line.

I am certain that the scenario must have been the same at almost every other major city marathon that happened after April 15th this year: The air being patrolled by planes, heavy deployment of security personnel amid the crowds, armored vehicles and horses manning spectators beside the route and gun yielding officers at some points.

For New York and Detroit marathons, the measures appeared to have even been more stringent as runners were required to carry their belongings in clear bags, among other measures that included the banning of hydration vests on the route.

Despite all these security measures being put in place, places to run in major upcoming marathons keep getting sold out in record times and many more people are diligently pursuing qualifying times to run in the Boston Marathon. Sometimes, disappointments may serve to bring out the best in a situation and I think that the Boston incident did help demonstrate to the whole world that runners are brave, resilient, caring and united.

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