Boston, April 16, 2013
Many thanks to all of you who called, emailed, tweeted or otherwise lobbed a quick inquiry — “You Ok?” they asked in unison.
Yes, I am Ok, though the city I most closely associate my life with is not.
Many Americans have an association with Boston, which makes yesterday’s tragedy so tough. It’s like something bad happened in your other hometown. Many people went to school here, interned or just took a long weekend to tour the cemeteries and battlegrounds of the Revolution. Maybe you ran the marathon once or twice or recall when John Williams conducted the Pops and wowed Hollywood with his film scores.
Other things need only a word, a name or just a year to conjure complete memories shared by many people who don’t live here. Lexington-Concord, Paul Revere, Hawthorn, Thoreau, Emerson, Heartbreak Hill, JFK, 1967, 2004. And forever, with new meaning after yesterday, The Boston Marathon. It’s what makes yesterday so tough.
Boston has been a marathon Mecca since 1897 but it was given a boost in the 1970’s after the American Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic race and author Jim Fixx published “The Complete Book of Running”. Fixx mythologized the marathon and Boston’s long tradition born from its late nineteenth century Classical Revival in which it celebrated Pheidippides’ long run from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persians in 490 BC.
After a long day of running all over the battlefield as a messenger, Pheidippides set off, running, for Athens to bring news of the victory. On reaching Athens it is said that Pheidippides uttered only one word, nikomen (“We have won”), and then expired. With Fixx’s help, race participation mushroomed to the point that you now have to qualify by running another marathon just to register for Boston.
If you ever ran Boston, or any other marathon, you probably know of Fixx’s prescription for finishing. It takes sixteen weeks of daily training to finish Boston, assuming the weather gods are with you and you don’t cramp a calf muscle on Heartbreak Hill. If you do the math, running Boston is not something you take lightly, it’s a New Year’s resolution that you commit to usually by running in the cold, dark and slush.
I can’t help thinking that whoever did this unspeakable thing yesterday made a similar resolution. But I won’t dwell on it. I know the authorities will find those responsible for this atrocity and bring them to justice. Meanwhile, today I am thinking about something Ted Kennedy wrote in his memoir a few years ago. You can’t change yesterday so there isn’t a lot of good that comes out of worrying about it. Today is something we can affect and mold, and tomorrow is something we can transform. The governor said today wouldn’t be business as usual exactly but the city is persevering and in the face of this tragedy I think that’s what’s important.