Boston and beyond: the spirit of the marathon

It’s not easy to break a runner.

Runners are tough. They have spirit. They are determined. They run in the face of adversity. Runners are used to pain.

But the pain inflicted at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 was something else altogether.

Who targets a celebration of mental and physical strength and endurance? Who plants bombs among unsuspecting crowds, crowds made up of men, women and children?

Who is it who fills a pressure cooker full of nails and ball bearings with the deliberate intention to maim and kill?

Sometimes I think monsters walk among us.

The entire incident had an eerie feeling of 9/11 to it. A beautiful, crisp day with the sun beaming down. And then two bombs one after another and then mayhem and panic.

Even so, the cowardly Boston bombings are less 9/11 and more a copy cat crime of the Atlanta Olympic Park bombings of 1996. In that instance, a backpack with three pipe bombs with nails packed around them was deposited at a concert. Two people died and 111 were injured, very close to the current Boston toll.

To say so many died and X amount were injured is so antiseptic.

An eight year old boy had his life torn from him while waiting to yell encouragement at his father.

In the hospitals, they are cutting limbs off people. Surgeons told the press the bombs had already done the work and they were just finishing it.

Bystanders tried to shield young children from seeing the gore – and failed.

My heart is heavy.

As are the hearts of countless thousands of others.

Such an act is aggressively anti-social. It strikes directly at the democratic right of assembly.

Such a right is enshrined because instinctively it recognizes a fundamental of human behavior: people like to herd.

We congregate to celebrate our existence, with giant music festivals, Olympic games and, yes, marathons.

To stop those celebrations because of fear is to let those who would terrorize us win. That won’t happen. We cannot let it happen.

We must feel free, safe and, yes, defiant, to gather in large crowds and exercise our democratic right and express our happiness and pure joy at the wonder of who we are and the accomplishments we are capable of performing.

On Sunday the London Marathon will go ahead. Runners will observe a 30 second silence, wear black ribbons and, in a more informal observance, cross the line with their hands on their hearts.

Runners will not be stopped. Marathoners will not be stopped. People will not be stopped.

The spirit of the marathon lives on. The spirit of the human race perseveres.


About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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18 Responses to Boston and beyond: the spirit of the marathon

  1. xjm716 says:


    Here’s what 11,000 people are doing to prove your point.

    • subthree says:

      Thank you. I joined the group. Ran 10 miles tonight in my Boston jersey from ’09, maybe the third time I’ve ever worn it. Thank you for reading.

  2. Carol Egan says:

    dear Charles,
    Such violence, toward another treasured, beautiful human being is so incomprehensible…the analytical me cannot comprehend any why, there is simply no logic, no reason to this. It makes me love my fellow human beings even more. I try to reconcile and think, for a brief moment, would I ever, could I ever even think to harm another person, animal, plant, even air? It is just beyond reason. Turn the other cheek? You bet. I would never go over to that dark side, not even for the briefest of moments.

    • subthree says:

      Carol, it is for most of us inconceivable how such an act could take place and what could drive someone to do such a thing. In my worst moments, I wish terrible things upon such individuals; at my most compassionate, I ask that justice be served upon them and that they be made to reflect on their horrid, selfish acts. Mostly, I grieve. And then I’m defiant. Peace.

  3. Ryan Jacobson says:

    As always, Charles, well said. The group that I am training with here in Fredericton will be doing our 20 miler on Sunday wearing the ” 4:15:13″ bibs which are simple to print from a page on Facebook. Many of us are hoping our time in the upcoming Fredericton Marathon (May 12th) will allow us to qualify to run Boston in 2014. And run it we will ! Take good care my friend. Sending positive vibes your way. Ryan

  4. Grant Walker says:

    nothing can deter a runner.

  5. Noortje says:

    So very sad. I was still on my runner’s hight from finishing the Rotterdam Marathon the day before. An amazing event with lots of people, a fantastic atmosphere and the celebration of the human spirit. I was looking forward to hear the stories from Boston and than this happens……Thanks for your blog!

    • subthree says:

      It’s tragic, especially for those directly affected by the blast, most of whom where spectators and not runners at all. At least we can voice our support and wear our colours and show that we, in the words of one of my favourite Tom Petty songs, won’t back down.

  6. ilanabr says:

    I am looking for a marathon runner from Vancouver evie Mandel just want to know if she is o.k.

  7. Deborah Jones says:

    Well said.

  8. Katie Petersen says:

    Beautiful post, Charles. Thank you!

  9. Ann says:

    Well said. I have said this a couple of times in the last few days but I will be running Marine Corps Marathon in October and I will be qualifying to run Boston. I will not be deterred by fear.

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