I used to be a runner.
I could sprint about 90 feet at a time, from basket to basket or from home to first. I might have gone for distance — 180 feet — if I ever hit the ball out of the infield. But, alas, we all have our shortcomings.
So, needless to say, the idea of running a marathon is exceedingly foreign to me. The thought of running 26.2 miles without a Starbucks stop or three makes my head hurt.
In this regard, I suspect, I am not alone.
Which is what makes the marathon such a romantic and romanticized athletic endeavor. It’s not a matter that we don’t run marathons. It’s that we can’t. At least not today.
The marathon, as a test of both physical and mental strength, holds a unique attraction. It is a realm of the elite, and yet it remains within reach. You see doctors and homemakers and business people, young people and old people and in-between people who find enough intestinal fortitude to train and put themselves through that test, and even the most devoted couch potato can find inspiration in their effort.
That’s the compelling part of the marathon, the thing that leads hundreds of thousands of people to stand along a race route and cheer on strangers.
Look, I could train for a year as hard as humanly possible, and I still couldn’t hit a baseball 400 feet. But the marathon? The marathon provides a glimmer of hope that it could be achieved if only I had enough dedication.
I’m guessing that a lot of people feel the same way.
I’m guessing that a lot of people are drawn to the event because of this.
The marathon, you see, brings out the best in us.
And Monday, it provided a platform for the worst.
There are no words to explain the depravity that led somebody to detonate two bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
There’s no explanation, and there never will be.
We will find out who did it, and we will search for reasons, but we’ll never find them. Evil defies logic.
Regardless of what macabre motivation is eventually defined, the only rational reaction to it will be, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
And still, the fallout from this year’s Boston Marathon will be widespread and long-lasting. It’s no secret that sporting events are particularly vulnerable to terrorism. That vulnerability is inescapable when you have 10,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 people gathering in a condensed space and being distracted by an event that is taking place.
Such is the nature of the world in which we live, even as that world is altered by devious acts. Major sporting events are a routine occurrence in this country; they’re part of the fabric of our society. And they come with an inherent vulnerability.
Yet, while Monday’s bombings were horrific and nonsensical, they could not outweigh the heroism of the day. I remain in awe of people who, upon hearing a bomb blast or gunshots or cries for help, run toward the trouble rather than away from it.
That is what we saw Monday in Boston; that is what hopefully will be the lasting impression. Simply another display of the best of humanity, even if it was tainted by the worst.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To “like” him on Facebook, search for “Greg Jayne – The Columbian”