Please don’t take Bos­ton for granted

Flash­backs of hor­rific day evoked ev­ery year

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - David Leon Moore Guest columnist David Leon Moore, who was a sports­writer at USA TO­DAY for 33 years, is a free­lance writer, teacher, grand­fa­ther and fre­quent marathoner. He lives with his wife in Moor­park, Calif.

“Were you there the year of the bombs?”

That’s usu­ally the first ques­tion I get when some­one learns that I run the Bos­ton Marathon ev­ery year.

Yes, I was in Bos­ton on Pa­tri­ots Day in 2013. That hor­ri­ble day is not how I think of Bos­ton. To me, the Bos­ton Marathon is like a Mecca, call­ing me and oth­ers who love dis­tance run­ning to gather and feel the kin­ship of run­ning and test our­selves on the famed Hills of New­ton. It is the old­est and great­est race of them all, a mag­i­cal event.

But if most peo­ple think first of those ter­ri­ble ex­plo­sions when they hear some­thing about the Bos­ton Marathon, I un­der­stand. I’m good with that. We should never for­get. I know I won’t.

You see, those bombs, which took three lives and in­flicted many grue­some in­juries, changed for­ever the way I feel about a race that I loved be­fore the tragedies and love even more now as I get ready to run my 10th con­sec­u­tive Bos­ton Marathon on Mon­day.

This year is the fifth an­niver­sary of the bombs, and race or­ga­niz­ers and city of­fi­cials are mark­ing the mo­ment with solemn re­mem­brances, mo­ments of si­lence and the lay­ing of wreaths at the two spots on Boyl­ston Street where the bombs ex­ploded. There will likely be lov­ing ges­tures like these ev­ery five or 10 years in Bos­ton. For those of us who were there in 2013, though, the vivid flash­backs of that hor­rific day are evoked ev­ery year we re­turn to run again.

I still see the shock and fear in peo­ple’s faces, the panic in the streets, cell­phones not work­ing, the hor­ri­ble not know­ing if my fam­ily was safe, the wor­ry­ing about whether every­one was all right. Then, the aw­ful an­swers came. No, every­one was not all right, not by a long shot.

I also have clear memories of the 2014 race, the year we came back to honor the dead, to sup­port those still re­hab­bing in­juries or learn­ing to live with pros­thetic limbs, to em­brace and sup­port a beloved race that is such a mean­ing­ful part of many run­ners’ lives.

I re­mem­ber the 2014 race as if it were yes­ter­day. We stood at the start in the town of Hop­kin­ton and ob­served the silen­test mo­ment of si­lence I have ever heard. When we fin­ished run­ning, the hordes of vol­un­teers who put medals around our necks were even more com­fort­ing and con­grat­u­la­tory than usual. And, this time, they ex­pressed such grat­i­tude for our mere pres­ence.

“Thank you so much for com­ing back,” they said. “We ap­pre­ci­ate so much you run­ning again this year.”

We felt like heroes for sim­ply hav­ing shown up. That’s one of the things I learned in Bos­ton, that show­ing up is in­deed heroic. Some­times we don’t know the best way to re­spond to oth­ers’ grief or suf­fer­ing. Some­times the best thing we can do is just show up. I heard some­thing once about this: Don’t just do some­thing, stand there.

And so we stand in Bos­ton again. Bos­ton strong. And we run. And we never take it for granted. That’s an­other thing I learned in Bos­ton. We train and plan for months how to run our best. But noth­ing is guar­an­teed on race day. I’ve run Bos­ton in record heat, in a driv­ing rain­storm, with a bum foot. It looks like Mon­day will be an­other tough weather day — wet and cold. As the say­ing goes, we make plans and God laughs.

I’ve also run Bos­ton with a heavy heart. Some­times ter­ri­ble things hap­pen to in­no­cent peo­ple, and we all cry.

In 2014, my grown son Nate was there in New­ton at the Mile 20 sign­post, en­cour­ag­ing me as I headed for Heart­break Hill. When I ran past him, I couldn’t help but think of lit­tle Martin Richard, the 8year-old boy who was killed in the blasts while stand­ing next to the course a year ear­lier.

I am re­mem­ber­ing Martin again to­day. And I am think­ing back to when my Nate was 8, when I taught him to make layups with his left hand and to read the in­com­ing waves on a boo­gie board. Later, with his gen­tle na­ture and thought­ful­ness of oth­ers, he taught me to be a bet­ter man.

I don’t know why Martin Richard’s par­ents lost their boy and I got to keep mine. I don’t. But I know that Nate is there at Mile 20 ev­ery year, and I thank God ev­ery time.


The fa­ther of Lingzi Lu, Jun Lu, left, and her aunt He­len Zhao, right, carry a wreath dur­ing a cer­e­mony at the site where Lingzi Lu was killed at the 2013 Bos­ton Marathon on April 15.

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