Right now I am sitting in an old rocker, looking at a Leroy Neiman print on the wall of my office. The print is titled “Boston Marathon THE RACE”. I acquired this framed poster (lest you think I am a collector of original artworks) some 27 years ago, when I worked for a company that supplied footwear and clothing for runners. This was a company full of athletes, mainly long distance runners, and each year several of them qualified to run the Boston Marathon. Patriots’ Day, as it is officially known in Massachusetts, was known as Marathon Day at the office. We were closed on Patriots’ Day, and anyone not running usually stood somewhere along the route offering water and encouragement to our coworkers. Once they had passed, we jumped in our cars and frantically tried to get to the finish line before they did.
That particular group of runners and cheerleaders has lost touch in the intervening years, but since I first hung up that poster, I have encountered dozens more people who have run, want to run, or are training to run THE RACE. Most know they won’t win. Most just want to finish it. Nearly everyone in New England knows someone who is running “Boston” just to be able to say they finished it.
That is why the events of last year were particularly loathsome. About 10 minutes after my last blog entry, on April 15 2013, two explosions rocked the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The elite runners had already passed. The victims were people like the ones I had on my list, ordinary people who took three hours or more to finish.
When I heard the news I immediately thought of my “runners list”. It’s a long list, and I knew that anyone who wasn’t running might be waiting somewhere along the way or at the finish line. I thought of the middle-aged husband and wife, who might be running together, or one waiting for the other at the end. We knew a pair of proud parents, waiting for their daughter and her friend to complete their first trip from Hopkinton.