It feels as if someone has bombed my church.
This in no way diminishes anyone's religion or sense of faith, nor does it elevate the Boston Marathon into the realm of sacred. But calling the Boston Marathon just a race is akin to calling a house of worship just a building, and it strips away the tradition, emotion and, yes, faith attached to the event.
And, of course, the very reason why it was targeted is because the marathon is special and holds such meaning to a lot of people - not to mention the fact that it attracts deep crowds. Terrorism is designed to reach into the very heart of a people, twist it, break it and create more hatred and fear.
Ever since I was kid, I have been obsessed with two marathons. No. 1 is the New York Marathon. I grew up in a heyday of American distance running, at the heart of the running boom. The New York Marathon also was televised live. In 1981, after watching Alberto Salazar win it in a world record time (since disputed), I went out and made believe I was a front-runner in the race myself.
Bill Rodgers also was at the end of his remarkable career, so I read a lot about the Boston Marathon, Heartbreak Hill and all the tradition that goes into the race. Boston requires runners to qualify, and that time always seemed out of my reach, so I spent most of my time obsessing about the New York race.
I never knew how hard the marathon was until I ran the Twin Cities Marathon in 2006 at age 40. Oof, it was hard. Harder than I ever imagined. But it also was a transcendent experience. There I was, with thousands of other people, all strangers. There were people from all over the world, different sizes, different shapes. There were shoeless runners, runners who carried all sorts of strange devices with them and runners in costumes. (I ran the race again in 2011; there was a guy who carried the U.S. flag the distance. Awesome.)
I'm sure they were all of different religions, political perspectives and viewpoints. But that day, we were all one, with one goal. We were both competing against each other and helping each other at the same time. I can't really begin to describe the feeling that comes from being a part of something like that. But if anything is a metaphor for America, it's that feeling, that spirit.
The Boston Marathon, of course, is all of that emotion multiplied, because of the high skill level the runners have achieved and the general feeling of the holiday Patriots' Day takes on in Boston.
It makes sense that evil would target such an event, because it's loved by so many, and for a lot of us, it's a symbol of what is great about this country and humanity in general.
After my last marathon, I told my wife that I (probably) would never run another one.
But the bombing has given me second thoughts. (Don't tell Kris.) It seems to me that one way to fight terrorism is not to allow it to control you. Maybe running another marathon is one way to defy the evil.