For every person who runs marathons, the word "Boston" has a special meaning.
The Boston Marathon is not just the Super Bowl of running. It is also the green light in the distance towards which thousands upon thousands of American runners dash. And it's that aspirational quality that makes the event unique in American sport.
The Boston Marathon doesn't simply showcase the excellence of a few professionals. Look at me: I'm 5'11", 168 pounds. I never had much of a future as an NFL player. But regardless of my size, age, or gender, I can aspire to run the greatest road race in the world. Anyone can qualify for Boston, if only they will put in the work the task requires.
Because of that, people like me keep running, keep striving. Personally, I have to shave 15 minutes from my personal best to hit the 3:05 qualifying number if I hope to run Boston in the next nine years of my life (after which it gets a tiny bit easier for me to qualify, if only because I will be older). It's a tall task, but every day, I keep that number in mind as I look at my watch and monitor my pace throughout my 80-minute runs. I know it is possible, because my father ran Boston last year — for the first time — at age 60. And if he can do it, so can I.
I am not alone in this endeavor. Thousands upon thousands of runners are just like me: For years, they have been striving to qualify for Boston. Over the course of the past year, several thousand did what I and so many others are working towards: They qualified for their first Boston Marathon. For those individuals, today was to be a sacred day — a painful but sweet reward for all of the miles, all of the sweat, all of the work they put in so that they might one day have the honor and the privilege of storming Heartbreak Hill. That reward, and in some cases much more, was stolen from those runners and the Bostonians who turned out to support them today. People lost their lives, their sons, their daughters, their limbs… and the Boston Marathon had to be canceled prematurely.
I do not possess the requisite skill to express what I am feeling right now. But I know this: A marathon is ultimately a test of toughness and resolve. Those who run them typically do so to prove to themselves that they can fight through great adversity and still prevail. This nation's history shares the same spirit that the marathon showcases, and as we always have, we will prevail. We will mourn our dead, help our wounded, bring the criminals who committed this heinous act to justice. America will not quit. It will not stop running. And the Boston Marathon will not go away.