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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Boston, terror came at 26.2 miles

Elation intersects with devastation.
That was a nagging thought as I watched the horror from Boston on Monday.
Completing a marathon is not like finishing a one-mile fun run. It's not a 5K or a 10K or even a half marathon.
Not to diminish any of those distances, but completing a marathon entails embracing an entire lifestyle.
It's a wife who says it is all right to be gone for hours at a time to train. It's a husband who is willing to watch the kids while you put in your weekly long runs. It is chewing on Power Bars and not chips and Doritos; swigging energy drinks and not Mountain Dew.
It’s dedication and on Patriots Day in Boston, it became devastation.
Distance runners talk about hitting the wall. That’s not something constructed of bricks and mortar, but it carries the same impact. The wall usually looms about 20 miles out, when all of a sudden your body and brain rebel. It’s that moment when a runner goes from feeling pretty good to feeling pretty darn awful. It’s also a time when a decision has to be made; should I pull off the road and put myself up on blocks, or should I tough my way through the remaining 6.2 miles?
Mostly, runners tough it out. That is why the elation of the finish line looms so large. You’ve arm wrestled with introspection, and won. It is a feeling you’ll never forget.
That recollection became decidedly different in Boston on Monday. Two bombs near the finish line, detonated about 12 seconds apart, killed three people and injured 176 others. Those injured included 17 who were still in critical condition as of Monday afternoon, according to the Boston Globe.
Only two of the three people who died have been identified. Both were there to cheer on the runners. Eight-year-old Martin Richard was near the finish line with his mom, dad, brother and sister. While his father, Bill, is a runner, he was not entered in the marathon. His mother and sister were seriously injured in the blast. His brother was unharmed.
A second victim, Krystle Campbell, 29, was called “the most lovable girl,” by her father, William. “She helped everybody, and I’m just so shocked right now. We’re just devastated,” according to NBC News.
It’s tragically appropriate that those two were there to support the runners. There’s a camaraderie in the running community that is unique.
I’ve run several marathons, and I have done all of them with friends and training partners. The pact we made going in was to never leave anyone behind. Judging by the clock, that doesn’t always work to your advantage. During one marathon, a pal hit the wall at about 18 miles. The rest of us turned around and saw him walking.
“Joe has the hood up,” we said. We didn’t leave him in the rearview mirror. We just slowed down and towed him along for the final eight miles. Who cares what our finishing time was? We were in this together.
Another time, Jeff was nursing an injury. He thought he’d hold up through the marathon, but that turned out to be wildly optimistic. At about the midway point of the race, he broke down. So we started setting small goes. Let’s get to that light pole. Then let’s get to the next light pole. We did not set any speed records, but we finished.
There’s something mildly heroic about finishing any marathon. You’ve got to have a certain mental toughness to deal with the doubt that you undoubtedly will encounter. That’s why all these tales of heroism coming out of Boston don’t surprise me. The runners who kept jogging right to the hospital to donate blood. Others who tore off parts of their clothing so they could make tourniquets for the badly wounded.
The photograph of the man in the cowboy hat comforting a man whose legs appeared mangled. The photograph of former New England Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi carrying a female victim to a nearby ambulance.
The story of race volunteer John Gannon, who drove down Charles Street, calling out to ask if stranded runners needed a ride or a phone to borrow. He took two carloads to Harvard Square and a third to the Newton Marriott hotel.
From elation to devastation. Sure that is part of the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon. So is the toll of three dead and 176 injured. But there is more to that equation. Tally the number of marathon finishers. Tally the number of impromptu heroes. Tally the action of all the first-responders; the doctors and nurses.
I prefer to embrace that total.


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