My column this week was to be about a case of runner’s knee, which kept me from running this year’s Boston Marathon. Instead, I write with a heart broken by the actions of cowards at the finish line of the race.
I look at the pictures of gap-toothed, smiling 8-year-old Martin Richard and my soul cries. Like Martin, my then 8-year-old son Ben cheered me on as I ran the Boston Marathon last year. I was able to share my elation at finishing my first Boston Marathon with Ben. Martin’s father will never have that chance.
I first learned of the tragedy when my secretary mentioned that her sister, who resides in Boston, had posted on Facebook that a bomb had gone off at the finish line of the Marathon, resulting in horrific injuries and casualties. Frankly, my brain could not process such an act — all I could reason was that my secretary was joking with me to help allay my letdown at not being able to race. At first, I was comforted when I could find no mention of the incident online. Moments later, the internet caught up with the Facebook post ...
All I could think of were my friends at the race, who I had been tracking online as they ran the race seemingly moments before. The photos on Facebook of friends celebrating post race contrasted drastically with the images I was seeing from the finish line — two ferocious blasts, runner’s being blown over like rag dolls, blood everywhere. Were my friends and their families safe?
The first friend I texted in Boston was at an establishment a few blocks from the finish line, unaware of the incident. Once he became aware of what at happened, all he could text back was “Damn.”
As the day progressed, via social media, email and text messaging, I learned that all of my friends in Boston, indeed all Rochestarians who had run the race, were safe. But the larger picture was not as rosy, as initial reports of 20 injured turned to three dead and 150-plus injured, many of them having lost limbs.
Had I run the race at my normal pace I would have been blocks away celebrating when the blast occurred. But in the back of my mind are the thoughts, “What if I had tried to run the race injured? Would I have been finishing as the blasts went off? Would my friends have been waiting for me in what became the blast zone?” The possibilities send chills up my spine.
But out of tragedy always comes heroism and goodness. In Boston, first responders and other brave souls rushed into the blast zone to assist those in need, and runners who had just completed 26.2 miles rushed to area hospitals to donate blood. My Facebook account was blowing up with messages from friends old and new, local and as afar as Israel, wondering if I had run the race and if I was alright.
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If it was the terrorist’s goal to disrupt our way of life, they were messing with the wrong people. I love the following quote I have seen on social media, “If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.”
The 118th Boston Marathon will be run next year and balky knee willing my sights are set with laser precision on running an early fall marathon in attempt to qualify for it. And if I do, on April 21, 2014 I will be “toeing the line” in Hopkinton in a show of support for an American institution and those killed and inured this week and as a message to cowards that, try as they will, they will never destroy the indomitable spirit of Americans and marathoners!
Steve Levitsky is a lawyer by day, runner by night. He has run hundreds of races, ranging from 5k to 50 miles, and ranks his greatest running accomplishment as qualifying for and running the 2012 Boston Marathon (which he will repeat in 2013). Steve welcomes feedback and story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.