Cameron Smith is the editor of Yahoo!'s Prep Rally high school sports blog and is an avid marathoner. He has run the Boston Marathon five times, including the 117th running on Monday. This is his story of that day.
On Monday, I was one of the lucky ones.
As the world has now fully taken in, the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, the great American endurance road race, was halted by two explosions. The blasts ripped apart two stores on Boylston Street, the downtown Boston thoroughfare which stands as one of New England's busiest streets, with cars 364 days and people one day each year.
The blasts killed three people, and may still claim the lives of others. They injured numerous spectators and some runners, a total of more than 170 people, leaving a at least 10 who had cheerfully watched the race facing gruesome amputations. They left all in the Boston-area shaken, including those who had finished the race.
I was one of those runners. While I had crossed the finish line before the plumes of smoke and shrapnel erupted on Boylston, I could have easily been one of those devastated by the attack. The only thing that kept me and my loved ones from being directly in the blast zone was a lucky knack for endurance sports and my own selfishness. In fact, roughly an hour before the bombs went off, my wife, sister-in-law, brother-in-law and two close friends were watching the race from within a block of one of the blasts. If I had been running an hour later, they likely would have been struck by debris.
The latter factor is a significant one in this case. I run for my own selfish pursuits, even if they could be considered moderately wholesome in their own right. I run for the memory of my adoptive grandfather, who always pushed me, and the uncle of my oldest, closest friend, who broadened my horizons. I also run to connect with my ancestors (I'm Greek-American) and for the general health benefits that come from it.
Yet, at its heart, I run because I can. I run to push myself to my physical limits and occasionally beyond, testing my mental strength in the process.
While my proclivity for endurance events may make me faster than some who finish behind me (though there are MANY who finish far before myself), those who cross the finish line later are by far my superior. They are the ones who run for a greater purpose, raising millions of dollars for worthwhile charities in Boston, America and the world. They train for months to test themselves physically and mentally for a single day, all the while connecting with the struggle of the less fortunate who their exploits benefit. What they achieve is deeply inspiring on both a personal and social level.
On Monday, they and their families and friends were attacked. Senselessly. For having the temerity to achieve personally while also leaving a legacy on society as a whole.
That is despicable. There is no other word for it. Despicable probably isn't strong enough, but at least it's a start.
Say nothing of the fact that Monday in Boston should have been one of the city's truly great days; it was a picturesque, sunny and brisk spring morning and afternoon, the Red Sox won on a walk-off hit and the entire Boston area felt captivated by a collective case of runner's high. It was the kind of day that can lift a community for days or even weeks.
Instead, all of that came crashing down thanks to the actions of some lunatic or, perhaps, lunatics. While we don't yet know who is responsible for these horrific explosions, someone or some group is. Some sociopathic freak targeted a group of the most committed human beings in the U.S. and attacked them and their families, likely just because they would yield a higher casualty number due to the density of people on the course and in attendance.
Of course, like all attacks, this is a deeply cowardly strike. Rather than make a coherent case, a weak, pitiful person decided to physically harm others, undermining whatever political point they hoped to make rather than enhancing it.
Besides the obvious idiocy and repulsive, sanctimonious selfishness incumbent in any civic attack, there is also this bit which may have been overlooked: they attacked precisely the wrong people. Just as New York bounced back with more strength and fortitude after 9/11, the Boston Marathon and its annual phalanx of inspiring runners will not go quietly into that good night.
Think about it: These are Americans and select international friends who are so steel-willed that they not only run, but choose to run 26.2 MILES for the fun of it, up and down a constant procession of steep hills, mostly with a smile on their faces.
There will be a 118th Boston Marathon, just as there have been 117 before it. And when it happens, there will be 27,000 runners fighting to finish, pushing themselves and their causes. I will be among them, and to hell with anyone who thinks they can scare us away from one of America's great civic and sporting traditions.