“The most important thing … is not to win but to take part.”
Monday afternoon, three people were killed and more than 100 were injured when two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
You’ve heard about that; I almost didn’t mention it for fear of beating a dead horse. Another common statement is that the event was terrible and tragic; while this statement is certainly not wrong, it is, perhaps, an understatement.
The concept of sport has an inherent dichotomy of winning and losing, one which played out in the same Boylston Street corridor earlier Monday when Lelisa Desisa snapped the tape in 2:10:22. But there were nearly 25,000 runners entered — certainly not all of them were there to beat every other one.
I’m not a runner, but several of my family members (and my newspaper adviser) are, so I’ve seen more than a couple of events. And more than maybe any other sport on this planet, the running community is one that values participation. At 4 hours, 9 minutes, 44 seconds into the race, Olympic-medal dreams are long gone: much like the part of Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic creed that leads off this column, it’s the experience rather than the result that matters.
As of this writing, there are conflicting reports as to whether a suspect is in custody — regardless of whether one is, their motive is certainly unknown to the public. But what makes Monday’s event even more distressing is that, based on the traditional distribution of finish times in Boston, somewhere around the 4-hour mark is where the highest number of people finish.
While we do not know this, it seems plausible that such a time of detonation could therefore have been set to maximize the number of people around. And as someone who appreciates staying to the end of a race in support of the finishers whose names won’t make ESPN, this objectification hurts: it would represent a repurposing of the runners’ moment in the sun for one individual’s date with infamy. It’s depressing that more than 7,000 runners never got to experience the triumph after their 26.2-mile struggle.