The road to answers on why someone would bomb the Boston Marathon, the nation’s oldest annual one, remains long, and difficult.
In this edition of "A Fan's Notes," commentator Victor Wishna looks for inspiration in the marathon itself.
I am not a runner. Not in the least. If I see that I’m about to miss my bus, I will …wait for the next bus.
Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been in awe of those who not only run, but run marathons. I can more easily imagine getting a hit off a Major-League pitcher than running twenty-six-plus miles in one day, at one time, without stopping.
Yet some twenty-three thousand people set off towards the finish line in Boston on Monday morning, including well over a hundred from the Kansas City area. All fifty states were represented, as well as ninety-six countries, from Brazil to Burundi. A marathon is a unique live sporting event that brings the action to the fans where they live—on Monday, more than half a million lined the route. In that way, the Boston Marathon represents the highest ideal that public sporting events can achieve: to bring people of all nations and backgrounds together.
So perhaps that’s why the marathon became a target. Or perhaps I’m giving these suspects way too much credit. Perhaps their only goal was to murder and to maim, and in the crowd of unsuspecting fans of all ages they saw the softest of soft targets.
But while bombs explode, buildings shatter, and people die, any attempt to defeat an ideal will fail. And in this case, the perpetrators definitely picked the wrong symbol.
So many sports metaphors are empty and inappropriate. Those that confuse a losing streak with “adversity” or compare competition to “combat” were rendered meaningless by the shredded limbs and streaks of blood on Boylston Street.
But in the aftermath, one figure of sports speech holds true: It’s the one that says that life—with no disrespect to sprinters—is...a marathon.
Yes, only a handful of runners will ever achieve elite status, running for hours at a pace that normal fit people can only sustain for minutes at a time. But that’s not what the marathon is for the vast majority of people who come to enter or be entertained by it.
And that’s not who was attacked at approximately 2:50 p.m. Eastern time. The winners had finished hours earlier; the detonations erupted amidst those who were running for a cause or to fulfill a lifelong dream, and the friends and family who came to revel in the victory, no matter what the official clock said.
Thousands of people, running for charity or to promote an agenda, to remember fallen friends, to represent their country or their hometown…or simply to celebrate life. Why else would someone run twenty-six-point-two miles dressed as a nine-foot-tall hot dog, as one man did Monday?
I know people who have performed at Carnegie Hall and argued cases before the Supreme Court, and yet describe running a marathon as the greatest thing they will ever do. There may be no moment of exultation like crossing that finish line—part of what makes the setting and timing of this violence so surreal.
That, of course, could be any one of us. Any one of us could run a marathon, even me. All it would take is hard work, conviction, and unwavering mental determination. In another word, resilience. If something so “impossible” could be accomplished, then other obstacles, seemingly insurmountable and far more profound, like grief, anxiety, and fear, can also be overcome. That’s something to hold onto in this moment, when can still seem miles away.
Victor Wishna is a writer, editor, author, and sports fan. He lives in Leawood. You can hear “A Fan’s Notes” monthly on Up to Date.