The Boston Marathon Will Never Be The Same

The homestretch of the Boston Marathon along Boylston Street will forever carry the memories of those injured and killed on April 15, 2013. Photo: www.photorun.net

Join us this week in honoring the victims of last year’s Boston Marathon bombing.

This year, the Boston Marathon will be different. And it should be. It’s no longer just a historic race from Hopkinton to Bston, and it will likely never be again.

Although it boasts 117 years of history of racing 26.2 miles on the roads leading into Boston, this year won’t really be about that.

Yes, there will be a race come Marathon Monday and more than 36,000 determined runners will run from Hopkinton back to Boston. But this year, their times and places will be largely irrelevant. It is the simple act of running that is most important this year.

This year has everything to do with remembering last year, getting past last year, and moving on.

This year is about honoring Krystle Marie Campbell, Lu Lingzi and Martin Richard, the three spectators killed by the bomb blasts on Boylston Street, as well as the 250 or so others injured from the blasts. It will be about honoring Sean Collier, the M.I.T. police officer killed three days later in a firefight with the bombing suspects. It’s honoring the first responders who worked immediately and tirelessly to help those hurt on the streets of Boston.

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It’s still unthinkable that people were killed and maimed for life while watching or running a marathon. Yet, the victims and their immediate families will carry their scars for the rest of their lives. As runners, we need to carry their memories on Monday during this year’s Boston Marathon but forever more too.

There’s no doubt, the Boston Marathon is changed forever. As far as sporting events go, last year’s race will be remembered in history in the same light as the 1972 Olympics in Munich, during which 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed by Palestinian terrorists. As far as history goes, the 2013 Boston Marathon will remembered in the same view as 9/11, a terrorist attack on America.

For runners, it will remain the most respected race in the world, but it will never again be just a race. It will be impossible to ever again run down the homestretch on Boylston Street—arguably the most hallowed ground in the sport of running—without remembering what happened last year.

It remains to be seen whether the Boston Marathon will return to being a race open primarily to qualifiers—those who earn vaunted “BQ” times in their age group—with a small percentage of charity runners, or whether it will continue to offer an expanded field for victims, victims’ families and a larger percentage of charity runners.

Chasing a BQ time to try and qualify will remain a highly noble endeavor, but doing so now might carry more meaning, even if subtly, given the lingering anguish that will always be connected to the race. But it’s through the chasing of those qualifying times and the strength we all possess as runners that the spirit of the race will prevail.

“Without a doubt, the stakes have changed in this one,” race director Dave McGillivray told Competitor over the winter.

McGillivray recalled an article he wrote 10 or so years ago for a regional running publication in which he put the Boston Marathon into perspective.

“I wasn’t being facetious, but I said ‘it’s only a road race,’ ” McGillivray recalled. “What I said then was that ‘people should understand there are other things going on in the world that are important, but this is only a road race. Let’s make sure we understand that.’”

Now McGillivray wants to re-write that article.

“It really is more than a road race,” he said. “There are so many different connections and dimensions to this, especially now. So many people want to be a part of it, so many people want to use it to heal.”

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Running 26.2 miles has always carried a special celebration of personal achievement, both for Boston qualifiers and for charity runners. This year and forever more, the feeling of personal achievement finishing the Boston Marathon will include a certain amount of remembrance and respect for the victims.

The conclusion of the 2014 Boston Marathon on April 21 will start to offer closure, officially sealing last year’s events into history. But the blood-stained memories of last year’s event are now weaved into the fabric of the race.

Next year, the Boston Marathon might start to seem like just a race again. but it will never be just a race. The memory and honor of the victims need to be carried in the footsteps of every runner who runs from Hopkinton to Boston. As runners, we have to move on, but it’s our duty to never forget.

Please consider donating to The One Fund Boston or the Collier Fund.

Remember M.I.T. officer Sean A Collier

Donate to The One Fund Boston

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