A Brotherhood Of Runners


2013_Boston_Marathon_aftermath_peopleThe images from Boston are seared in my memory. The white smoke, the blood on the sidewalk among the debris. The wounded lying there, surrounded by doctors and EMTs.

The death toll has risen to three, and the wounded are numbered at more than 180, at seven days after this act of no purpose.

The explosions happened about two hours after the winner, Lelissa Desisa of Ethiopia, crossed the finish line at 2:10:23. Women’s elite runner Rita Jeptoo of Kenya crossed in 2:26:10.

On a typical Boston Marathon day, the race wouldn’t be about Desisa or Jeptoo. It never is. It’s about the other 23,000 runners who train hard enough and are determined enough to qualify in their age groups to run Boston.

Boston is a celebration for them. The hard work is getting there.

I’ve been running since 1984, and ran the Detroit and Chicago Marathons. But I know I’ll never qualify for Boston. I just don’t have the talent.

Those runners crossing the finish line at just over four hours, when the carnage began, had run much faster in another marathon to qualify. Each of the 23,000 runners should consider themselves elite. They are the people you see running on the street in weather that most people won’t want to drive in. They are the ones on the treadmill when you arrive at the health club and are still there when you leave. They are the ones who run longer and faster than you at your weekly run at your local running store. They will not quit.

Runners have personal reasons for running marathons. You train. You run. You get a Finisher’s Medal and you go home. It’s pretty simple. To them.

But to make it to Boston is a great achievement.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing heroic about training for a marathon compared to the heroism shown by those in the crowd who stayed to help the injured. I’m only saying that almost nothing will stop them from training, and they will train even harder for next year’s Boston Marathon.

To those who think the number of runners will shrink next year in Boston, or this year in New York, or Chicago, or Detroit, you are obviously not a runner. Americans across the country might stand in solidarity with the people of Boston, but the running community will run for them.

One day after the attack, thousands of runners across the country connected though social media to stage impromptu runs to show support for Boston. And they will show up in support at running events across the country in record numbers.

There is no way to protect and seal off 26.2 miles of roadway against a terrorist threat for a race that handles thousands of runners, and there is no reason to do so. Marathoners don’t easily get intimidated. They just get pissed and run faster.

Two Russian-born Chechen brothers have been linked to this heinous act.

On Friday morning, one of the brothers died after having killed a campus police officer at MIT, hijacked a SUV and led police on a chase. The other brother, who eluded police, was taken alive after a daylong manhunt that brought Boston to a standstill. He’s under arrest while being treated at a Boston hopsital.

These two men have no cause, they have no heart and they have no guts.

In a perfect world, we’d never hear anything at all about them.

In a perfect world, they would never have existed at all, and last Monday evening, an 8-year-old boy would have rooted for his father to finish a marathon and gone home with his family. A  Chinese-born graduate student would have returned to Boston University to finish her master’s degree. A waitress would have returned to her job in Arlington, and more than 180 people who were injured would simply have walked away.

Violent acts have no purpose — and never will.