Updated April 16, 2017
This piece was originally published on March 23, 2014. It is a different world now. I like the day of good works done on April 15. Here were my thoughts three years ago. I thought it made a good read.
The word is out.
Everyone will be in Boston this year for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
After the bombing at the Boston Marathon last year, the number of news outlets that covered downtown Boston within eight hours of the event could not be counted.
The night of the bombing, as Winged Foot publisher James O’Brien and I walked around downtown Boston, the media trucks were everywhere. By the next morning, the number of news organizations that were covering the bombing were from around the world.
But what was worse, no matter how well meaning, was how many knew nothing about the sport, the history of the event, and many just focused on the carnage…
Bill Rodgers setting AR in Boston in 1975,
photo courtesy of B.A.A.
I have been getting that sick feeling in my stomach for a the past few weeks about the “new” running experts who will show up in Boston, on CNN, and other media units, trying to describe the Boston marathon.
The facts are this: the most iconic marathon in our sport, Boston, was the focus of an attack by determined sociopaths who understood some things about the marathon, like, what time it was held and where people would be.
They did not understand, in my mind, the important things: like, why someone would not only run a marathon, but, try and qualify for the Boston marathon. Why there are 20,000 plus different stories each year in Boston. They did not understand the spirit that makes one train in minus twenty degrees or after putting three kids to bed, and a long day at work.
Boston is unique in the sport, as you have to qualify (well, most do), by reaching a time that is challenging for most in their age groups. Boston marathon, for the normal runner, is like a baseball player making it to the World Series. 30 million runners in the US in 2014, and 26,000 will run Boston. You figure it out.
I was in the media room when the two distinct bombs were heard. We were locked in the media room for about four hours. Most of the early news updates were wrong, and rumors were rampant. After five hours, many of us began to leave. Outside, near the course, fences were everywhere. Bags and paper blew along the cold, deserted streets, as police and emergency personnel continued to arrive. Our identification was checked as we went through the few checkpoints we could enter. Everyone was nervous. What the hell had happened?
My hotel, the Charlesmark, was off limits for three days, as it was part of the crime scene. I found another hotel, and procured a new Passport (thanks to the US Passport agency in record time), as I had planned to cover London a few days after Boston. My son, Adam, flew out from Wisconsin and was able to get my clothes out of the Charlesmark, thanks to the Red Cross. I was inconvenienced: I was not maimed or killed. I hazard to write about my little inconveniences, as the reality of the bombing wore down and affected many of my friends…
I have walked by the Charlesmark and the finish line several times since the bombing. I am overcome by a sadness that I can not put into words.
I received a phone call today, where a reader informed me about a piece in the Boston media castigating a brand for making a special Boston shoe. The reporter should have done some research, most brands do special t-shirts, special shirts, special shoes around major marathons, even if they are not the major sponsor. One can purchase the official product (adidas for Boston), but there are other options as well, and no one in the running community thinks it is a big deal.
Jimmy Buffett, the musical philosopher of all things Key West, once wrote, ” don’t try to describe a KISS concert if you have never seen one.” That should be the mantra of the media who are covering the Boston marathon. Learn about the event, add some insights to the event for your readers.
To most of the runners and former runners who have run Boston, the 26.2 miles of the Boston marathon is hallowed ground. It is even more so in 2014, as the sport has become of the focus of fanatics who don’t run, they maim or kill.
Running is another part of the multicultural world that some detest. In our sport, we accept you as you are, run fast, run slow, walk, there is a place for you. In fact, we celebrate the unique and goofy. That is the sport of running. In Boston, however, we celebrate the people who represent our sport, those who train the hardest, run the fastest for their age groups, and who influence many in their local communities to continue to run and explore their limits.
Last year’s bombing was surreal. I have not spoken much about it, because, I guess, I could not believe the loss of precious life, the maiming and carnage that came from the bombing. I was also taken by the show of love, spirit and care by so many of the volunteers, law enforcement, and fire house teams. The City of Boston showed its true class in the days after the marathon. I remember watching a young man, about 21-22, on a bike, delivering free coffee to Boston’s finest around the quarantined finish line.
That is what I want to celebrate. The history of the Boston marathon. The camaraderie of the Boston marathon. The meeting of friends and family that happens on Patriots’ Day in Boston. Honor the memories of Boston 2013 by allowing the 2014 race to have some dignity. Celebrate the sport, and let the alleged bomber get as little photo coverage, mention and photos of the bombing as possible. We all know what happened, and we have seen the pictures.
Honor the memories of those who were killed and maimed by giving the 2014 Boston marathon the respect and decorum it deserves.
Say a prayer for those hurt, those affected, those who rose to serve in times of need.
Honor them with a run or a walk.