Triumph, Agony and Sorrow

Male Runner

Before bicycles the main form of human powered transportation was feet. No vehicles existed. They had not yet been conceived of. So humans relied on their feet for travel and safety.

Many millennia ago, when humans roamed the plains, they walked for miles in search of sources of food. While out in the open, they were easy prey for predators who might have seen them as a tasty meal.

In addition to any weapons they may have fashioned to protect themselves, the early humans had their feet. If they could not fight, they could flee.

Although none of us will ever know for sure, they must have been able to run pretty fast. Not being able to run swiftly would, at times, have meant certain death. This made running an essential part of human existence.

Centuries passed. Humans settled into villages and towns, formed countries and generally set themselves up in a such way that they could stay in one place and still have enough food to eat. Once this change occurred, running became less necessary for survival.

Permanent dwellings and superior weaponry made it easier for humans to defend themselves against wild animals, and each other. But the need to run remained a fundamental part of who humans were. It was in their blood. For this reason, running became a contest.

People ran from one place to the next to see how fast they could get there. When running against oneself was no longer satisfactory, people set up races to see who could run the fastest compared to others.

Running became racing. And to run the fastest meant to cross the finish line in triumph.

It didn’t take long before different types of races were established. Short distances, medium distances and long distances tested different running strengths. Short distances required bursts of speed, while long distances required pacing and stamina. For some, long distance races became a test of human endurance, both physical and mental. And so the concept of the marathon was born.

Early on, such races drew a limited number of competitors who seemed devoted to the idea of proving that they could run the fastest over a long distance. After a while, the idea of running a marathon became popular with ordinary people who wanted to challenge themselves to run a long distance just to see if they could finish.

The Boston Marathon, a race run each year on Patriots Day, became a home to those runners. When the starting gun goes off, they run alongside elite athletes, and one another, engaging in a personal struggle against their own bodies, their own fatigue.

Around the world this event is watched and admired. It has become a tradition that has grown outside its borders. For many, it is the marathon to run. Finishing the Boston Marathon connotes a personal victory, a lifetime achievement and the right to say one was there.

All of that changed on April 15, 2013. On that day, a cowardly act of extreme anonymous aggression disrupted the race and deterred the slower runners from finishing. No doubt, they were disappointed. Long hours of training were wasted, and for some there might be no second chance. Still the biggest disappointment was to come later when they discovered the reason why the authorities had stopped the race.

Near the finish line, two bombs had blasted ferociously into a group of innocent, stationary humans, with ear shattering force. Carnage usually only seen in times of war ensued.

Everyone was stunned. In the blink of an eye, life and limb were lost, senselessly. Spectators fled in all directions, dazed and uncertain which way to go. There wasn’t enough time to figure out what had happened and where. Running away from the noise was the best the spectators could do.

Among the losses of the day was the loss of the sanctity of one of the greatest races the world has ever known. Despite this loss, the race will continue because the agony of the moment is always short lived.

When the terror and shock wear off, they will be replaced by sorrow — a sorrow which will hang over the marathon for many years to come. For in the wake of a desire to hurt someone an institution was maimed.

Each year going forward, every inch of the Boston Marathon course will serve as a reminder of the brave souls who perished or were wounded in a moment of great celebration. No detonation will ever destroy their presence or erase their indestructible footprints.

Every runner will run beside and for the victims in peace, harmony and solidarity because the human spirit cannot be crushed by hatred, violence or fear. Humans were meant to run. And they will run no matter who tries to stop them because running will always be a fundamental feature of human survival.

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