BOSTON — One year ago, riding the shock waves of the Boston Marathon bombings, good will rippled across the world.
Monday, that camaraderie and compassion returned to its source. The world converged on Boston to take back that race with a show of strength and love.
Monday was my fourth consecutive year running the Boston Marathon. Last year was still fresh in my mind, and the poignancy of visiting the bombing sites Sunday was impossible to prepare for.
Thankfully, I was nowhere near the finish line when the bombs exploded. But you didn’t have to be nearby or even in the city to be affected by those attacks.
Instead of targeting the elite runners, the explosions harmed those in the middle of the pack. It was an attack on the Everyman.
Monday, it was the Everyman who struck back against hatred and violence.
Like a runner easing into a race, scattered spectators generally ease into a throng as the route runs its 26-mile eastward course into the city.
Monday, rural areas early in the course that aren’t usually crowded had people standing three deep. They were part of an estimated 1 million spectators who lined the course.
It wasn’t just spectators who showed up in force. More than 32,000 runners took part, including 41 from Clark County, quickly selling out the race months ago.
Vancouver resident Dave Caldwell said last year’s attacks were the reason he chose to run.
“I wasn’t going to run until my wife also got a qualifying time,” said Caldwell, who ran his sixth marathon Monday. “But after what happened last year, I knew I had to do it. I knew it would be a very memorable one.”
Washougal High School track coach David Hajek had trained for six years before eclipsing Boston’s rigorous qualifying standard last spring at the Eugene Marathon. He, too, said he felt an obligation to run after last year’s attacks.
“I’ve never been to an event with so much positive support, not only from the fans but also the other runners,” Hajek said. “I was cramping up near the end. Two guys picked me up and said ‘you can do this.’ ”
The Boston Marathon crowd has a way of making everyone feel like they’re being cheered for individually. They’ll call out details on a runner’s shirt or a flag on their hat.
Wearing a Vancouver USA Marathon T-shirt, I heard countless calls of “Go Van-coo-vaahhh.”
The runners should have been saying “thank you” for the support, but many signs along the course said “thank you runners.” Any fulfilling relationship is built on mutual love and respect. That definitely exists between this city and marathon runners.
In a daze the day after last year’s attacks, I was in a coffee shop reading the newspaper, trying to process the unprocessable. A woman asked me if I had run and we began to commiserate.
“I’m just afraid nobody will want to come back next year,” she said.
“Oh, we’ll be back,” I promised. “And so will everyone else.”
Monday, 32,408 runners made good on that promise by simply doing what we know how to. We run, we endure, we support, we love.
And through those simple, humble actions, a city and its signature event were taken back from terror.