No excuse for ruining a marquee day

It was a day that started just like any other Marathon Monday.

The Red Sox were tuned into my boss’s TV in his corner office. The Boston Marathon was eagerly being followed online, with anticipation this may be the year an American runner wins the country’s marquee road race for the first time since the Reagan administration.

The Sox beat the Rays in walkoff fashion. Maine’s own Sheri Piers was the fourth U.S. finisher. A class full of BodyPumpers would be squatting and clean-and-pressing to a kickass new release later that afternoon. The Bruins would take over the Northeast Division lead with a win over Ottawa that night. Sounds like an ideal Patriots Day.

One despicable act of violence, however, would cast a dark cloud over this perfect day.

There it was, just before 3 p.m., a tweet on Northeast Fire alert, whose feed informs us of any sort of emergency happening from Maine to New York in 140 characters or less: Explosion. 755 Boylston Street, Boston.

I have not run the Boston Marathon – those of you who know me know that qualifying is one of my athletic aspirations – but I’ve covered this race and enjoyed this city enough times to know almost instantly that’s where the 26.2-mile journey from Hopkinton to Copley Square comes to a close.

Then, a short time later, we in the BDN newsroom learned the horrifying truth. Two bombs had exploded in the area of the Boston Marathon finish line. The aftermath left three, including an 8-year old boy, dead and hundreds injured. Limbs and blood were scattered in Copley Square as stunned runners crossed the finish line in horror.

As a reporter, your instincts take over at this point. Obviously, you want to get the facts. But my first priority was making sure all my Boston friends – and there are a lot of them – were OK. Fortunately, they were. One of my closest friends lives in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston and is a frequent attendee of the marathon. Upon getting in touch with her, she informed me that she had decided not to attend the race this spring. She stated she was OK. That’s all I needed to know.

The aftermath was one of many emotions. Hurt. Anger. Sorrow. It had a lot of people asking themselves, friends and family members alike, why an innocent event like the Boston Marathon? Such a terror attack hasn’t been seen on U.S. soil since the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The 2013 Boston Marathon was dedicated to the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, with participants running 26 miles for 26 victims. An innocent 8-year old boy enjoying a bright, sunny day off from school watching the race with his family had his life ripped away in the blink of an eye.

The first thought in my head was, how am I going to teach a BodyPump class tonight? Upon arriving at Union Street Athletics, the mood was somber, as expected. Instructors and members alike gathered around TV sets that hover above the cardio equipment watching the tragic events unfold. It was at that moment that I came to the realization that personal-bests and doing that extra pushup on your toes would be completely irrelevant. The purpose of this class on this particular day was tribe members coming together for 60 minutes to have fun, enjoy each other’s company, smile and laugh.

The Boston Marathon will go on next year on Patriots Day, as is tradition. But the spectacle of the 2013 race will forever have a dark shadow cast over it thanks to the cowardly acts of one individual or individuals. Mount Desert Island marathon race director Gary Allen, a man  of hundreds of marathons, said in a BDN story that ran earlier this week that he would trade his finisher’s medal for the health of all the victims. I’ve interviewed him many times myself, and wouldn’t expect him to say anything less. A true class act who embodies what running is all about.

There’s nothing fathomable about ruining what is a perfect day in New England. A national holiday. College students in greater Boston skip classes to line the streets. Ditto for adults who have the day off from work. Some of them even take sick days. Just for a marathon. But the Boston Marathon is more than just a 26.2-mile race. It’s a national event. One that was ruined by evil.

Whomever performed this cowardly act should know that Boston is the wrong city to mess with, and better yet, the entire New England region. We’re tough. We can overcome anything, and we will overcome this unspeakable tragedy. Prospective Boston Marathoners will continue to pound miles in hopes of landing that illusive qualifying time. Runners are a tough breed. I know. I am one of them. And you don’t want to mess with us.

Maybe in 2014, the likes of Shalane Flanagan or Kara Goucher will break the tape first and wrap themselves in red, white and blue. But the important thing is we keep running. Cowardly acts of terrorism won’t stop our marathon. Not now. Not ever.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.