An 8-year-old boy was murdered at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a precious child no doubt inspired by runner after spirited runner just before the Monday blast.
My son was 9 when I ran the Boston Marathon, happily waiting at the finish line and looking forward to a late Italian lunch. It was all planned out before a day of terror ruined our appetites. The Virginia Tech massacre took place the same day as the 2007 Boston Marathon, and our pasta was interrupted with fragmented attempts to explain why things like this happen.
The 8-year-old senselessly killed in Boston didn't get an explanation.
None of us can imagine a runner somewhere along the course – a parent, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, friend or neighbor – hearing about a bomb while looking forward to an 8-year-old's smiling face at the finish.
And yet it's almost surprising that terror on U.S. soil doesn't happen more often, what with the combination of zaniness, vulnerability and media coverage that guarantees maximum impact.
There is buzz all over the country about various upcoming big events.
Beefed up security?
There is only so much you can do at large runs, big sporting events, on crowded streets, in busy department stores.
But as the World Trade Center was a symbol, so is the utterly unique Boston blend of national spirit and sports. It was the Boston Marathon and, more importantly, Patriots' Day. It's a Massachusetts holiday complete with an annual Red Sox home game at Fenway Park, right along the marathon route.
Townsfolk along the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston emerge to support the runners. In Nattick and Newton, and always the women of Wellesley College insisting that runners stop long enough for a traditional kiss.
The Boston Marathon is unlike anything else: the Super Bowl of the sport but an event including elite Olympians and average people barely able to qualify.
By the way, while interest and/or participation in just about every other sport dropped over the last several years during a difficult economy, long-distance running popularity soared. So much so that the Boston Marathon two years ago had to toughen its qualification standards as a way of limiting entries.
That only made running more popular, inspiring more would-be participants to reach a greater goal.
Prediction: 2014 Boston Marathon breaks the record for applications, not even close.
As news unfolded of the Blacksburg massacre that horrible day in 2007, supporters along the Boston Marathon route produced homemade Virginia Tech logos and “Pray for Hokies” signs.
America's Boston Marathon spirit bounces back quickly, and endures.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.
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