At its very core, the marathon is about overcoming.
It's about tapping into a mysterious force that lets you do things you didn't think you could. It brings out the very best in people like no other event does.
The finish line at the Boston Marathon was shattered on Monday by two bombs. Limbs of several people were lost. The lives of three were taken. We were all affected by it in one way or another.
An Unbreakable Spirit
But take heart in this truth: The spirit of the marathon is unbreakable. I spent the last 24 hours thinking about what the impact the attack would have on the running community, and on the event that all marathon runners look to for ultimate inspiration.
Our spirits were shaken yesterday. Shaken hard. Someone tried to extinguish the spirit of the marathon and I'm mad about it. How dare you.
The Spirit of the Marathoner
In thinking about what happened yesterday, and in reading incredible accounts of heroism and bravery from volunteers, first responders, runners and victims, I've come to realize that the spirit of the marathon comes not from the event, or the distance, or the history.
The spirit of the marathon burns inside the people who run it.
Each marathoner has a story to tell about how they were challenged in their own way and overcame. No doubt there were people out on the Boston course yesterday who had overcome incredible obstacles. Cancer, sickness, depression, addiction... each runner has their reason to run and to train and to take on the marathon challenge and emerge triumphant after 42.2km.
That's why it was so incredibly hurtful that the bombs were at the finish and that many runners yesterday never got to experience the joy that comes with the running the last few hundred meters of their marathon. I don't know whether the person responsible considered this carefully, or whether it was by chance they chose the finish line to make their sick point. Whatever the case, the location added to the impact.
We'll Overcome, We'll Run Again
Most will have another opportunity to take on the marathon and they'll get to cross the line and revel in their accomplishment at another event or in Boston next year. Some won't, and that is truly tragic.
Runners run and I'll run a big-city marathon again, I'm sure. I'll think of Boston every single time I run towards the finish line, and I'll be thankful every time I cross without incident. It's not fair that it happened in Boston this week, but it did happen. It's not fair that we'll have to think of it every single time we run, but we will.
It can't be changed.
But runners will overcome this and the spirit of the marathon won't be diminished. Instead, like the runners that find strength they didn't know they had, the marathon will emerge stronger for what it went through in Boston yesterday.