The Future of Marathons After Boston: Reaction from Runner's World Editor
Amby Burfoot is Editor at Large for Runner's World and author of the magazine'sPeak Performancecolumn. He is a member of the Running Hall of Fame and winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon.Below is Amby's first-hand account of yesterday's events and his reaction.For a video clip of his response, you can watch his appearance on Rachel Maddow's 'Fresh Air'.Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the running community.
We had already started our celebration of another completed Boston Marathon. With little more than a half-mile to go, John and Megan Valentine and I were discussing how we could possibly improve on a great cornering photo (Hereford onto Boylston) that emerged from our run in the 2008 Boston.
The Aftermath: Stay updated by checking our full coverage of the 2013 Boston Marathon's events.
This year, five years later, on the 45th anniversary of my win in 1968, we had enjoyed a near-perfect run. The weather was close to ideal, and the crowds immense and more vocal, encouraging than I remembered (I had expected most of them to have dissipated by the time we third-wavers passed).
We had set out hoping to finish in 4:30, and as we reached the Mass Ave. underpass, it seemed clear that we would reach the Copley Square finish line in 4:26. We primped, pumped each other's hands, and practiced our victory smiles.
Then I noticed a congestion in the road ahead. I thought immediately that it must be a group of drunk college students swelling into the road. There had been plenty of them the last 6 miles. But the crowd didn't disperse, and I soon realized it was all marathoners, not spectators. We thudded to a stop, the road blocked ahead, and were completely confused, as were all the runners. I remembered the days way back in the 1970s when the Boston finish line would back up several hundred yards, unable to process finishers with the timing systems then in place. But this was the digital age, and it couldn't be that again.
My next thought, and I hate to admit this now: Who's ruining my party? I wanted to cross the finish line with my two wonderful friends, and celebrate another Boston Marathon completion in the way I had been imagining it for months. WTF was going on to interrupt my dream?
MORE: Share your reactions and stories, in Reactions from the Running Community.
Then my cell phone rang. It was my wife. She had been following us along the course in a van, and had just received a text from my cousin in the finish-line stands: "There have been two explosions, and the finish line is closed. The race is over." My wife repeated the words, and suggested we should try to walk back to our hotel as fast as possible.
It wasn't easy, not with police and ambulance and other emergency cars whizzing past every few seconds, but we made it about 20 minutes later. By then, my cell phone was jammed with texts, emails, and calls asking if I was okay.
I was, and feeling very thankful for that. And also very chagrined about my first thoughts, as well as somber and saddened by the harsh reality.
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Soon the media calls started rolling in. The Washington Post got to me first, and I think my words to the Post were as good as I will manage to anyone. This wasn't just an attack against the Boston Marathon, I said (and I'm paraphrasing now). It was an attack against the American public and our democratic use of the streets. We have used our public roadways for annual parades, protest marches, presidential inaugurations, marathons, and all manner of other events. The roads belong to us, and their use represents an important part of our free and democratic tradition.
I trust and believe that will not change in the future--not in Boston, not at the Boston Marathon, and not at other important public events. Yes, we must be ever-vigilant. We can not cover our eyes and ears, and pretend violent acts don't threaten our great institutions. (In the wake of these tragic events, here's what you can do right now, to help or show support for Boston.)
But our institutions did not become great by following a path of timidity and cowardice. And we can only hope that, when pummeled, as the Boston Marathon was today, they will rise again, stronger than ever.
RELATED: Find out what yesterday's events will mean for upcoming marathons.