I am a runner. I don’t run competitively any more, but I run. I am a student of distance running. And because I am a runner, two days ago I decided to visit the site of the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. Until I got there, I wasn’t sure why I was making this trip.
I didn’t know what I would see and what I expected I should see. Would there be a memorial, or wreaths and flowers, posters, bombing debris, or people mourning? What I saw was not what I expected.
Running is the purest of all sports. No specialized equipment, just runners competing head to head. The Marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards. It is a long race and for the elite runner it requires a blend of endurance and speed. Elite runners average 4 minutes and 50 minutes per mile over the 26+ mile course. They are running around 13 miles per hour. It is man against man, or woman against woman, man or woman against themselves, mind against the body; a pure athletic event.
The Boston Marathon is the “granddaddy” of marathons. It has been run every year since 1897. Each year about 20,000 runners compete. Over 500,000 spectators turn out to cheer them on. It is the largest sporting event in New England. In 1996, the 100th running of the Boston Marathon, over 36,000 entered with 97.6% completing the course! Boston is run on the 3rd Monday in April, which is Patriot’s Day, a holiday to commemorate the birth of the United States and the fight for liberty.
Thousands of competitors in major marathons are not elite competitors. They have their reasons; some challenge themselves to do what was once unthinkable, some overcome handicaps, some support a cause that is important to them. Many run for charities, raising millions of dollars each year. And thousands come out to cheer them on, whatever the motivation is for each runner. It is how Americans react to challenge or adversity. We confront these things head on. We cheer the elite and the underdog, we encourage those with seemingly unobtainable goals, we cheer all of them. We expect to do this in peace and safety – but this changed 10 days ago. America was attacked by terrorists.
America has been inundated by the media in recent weeks with tragedies. We have problems, it isn’t a perfect country. With a population of over 300 million people, there will be the occasional homicidal murder on the loose. Not to minimize or dismiss these people, but statically it is rare – again we should be concerned about everyone one of these murderers, but there is no easy or simple solution and the media often makes these incidents worse.
The difference between these homicidal murders and terrorists is that terrorists are attacking us, they are attacking America and we don’t put up with it. We are vigilant. Terrorist attacks in the US are rare. Unlike other countries, we have little to worry about when it comes to terrorism – we are proactive to prevent these attacks. And when they happen; we respond quickly and with great resolve. Attack us and we will find you and bring you to justice.
What I Found in Boston
No memorials, no wreaths, no posters. Everything had been cleaned up and the only evidence of this horrible act of violence was a few boarded up windows. It was a balmy spring afternoon and people were scurrying along Boylston Street, getting on with their lives. Nearby parks were full of people enjoying the day.
Upon reflection, this is the way it should be. Boston is back to normal. Not that we have forgotten those who were killed or injured, because we haven’t. Bostonians are living and working without fear.
People have donated millions of dollars to the victims. But as Americans, we are not going to let terrorists force us to live in fear. Attack us, and we will quickly and swiftly hunt you down, then we will go back to living our lives. America is alive and healthy again. The victims are healing; and Americans are providing encouragement and support. We are a resilient people.