COLUMN: On Resilience — Notes from the 2018 Boston Marathon

Yuki Kawauchi of Setagaya, Japan wins the men's elite category of the 2018 Boston Marathon. He won with a time of 2 hours 15 minutes and 58 seconds. Photo by Gaelen Morse / BU News Service

By Sarah Rappaport
BU News Service 

Two bombs set off near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon killed three bystanders and injured 265 more. In the span of a few moments, the lives of hundreds were shattered and irreversibly changed. This year, on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that murdered eight-year-old Martin Richard, 29-year-old Krystle Campbell and 23-year-old Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi, Boston remains strong.

Nearly 30,000 athletes descended upon the historic 26.2 mile route to take part in the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon this morning. Some competed as athletes, while others raced for charity. No matter the reasoning, they all ran united.

The feeling of running a marathon is a foreign concept in my mind. The idea of even tackling a 5k brings about anxiety and stress sweat. A Boston outsider, I grew up in northern New Jersey, right across from the New York border, and I remember how a terrorist attack can bring a city to its knees. The smoke from the collapse of the Twin Towers was visible from my town, and it’s a sight I won’t soon forget.

Since then, I hadn’t noticed much similarities between the two cities. New York City and Boston are competitive in their views of most things, whether it’s who has the better sports teams or the tastiest pizza.

But there is one characteristic both cities share: resilience.

I saw that quality throughout the day, as competitive athletes and charity runners alike battled bone-chilling winds and numbing rain on the coldest race day in 30 years.

To put into perspective just how miserable the weather was, Women’s Wheelchair race winner Tatyana McFadden said that during points of the race, “I couldn’t even see.”

That bravery was clear when Marcel Hug of Switzerland crossed the finish line in the Men’s Pushrim Wheelchair race to claim his fourth straight win, and when United States athlete Tatyana McFadden won her fifth Women’s Wheelchair race and claimed a world-record breaking 22nd Abbott World Major victory.

It was obvious in Desiree Linden, who became the first American Elite woman to win the Boston Marathon since 1985, and in Yuki Kawauchi, who crossed the finish and became the first male athlete from Japan to win since 1987 — the year of his birth.

Even Linden had her doubts along the way, admitting in the post-race press conference that towards the beginning of the race she thought she might drop out. But she didn’t, and claimed her victory. “I guess I was thinking all of these things, and then I broke the tape,” Linden recounted.

Resilience was present when the Lingzi and Richard families joined Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker for a private ceremony at the Boston Public Library, after Walsh and Baker had laid wreaths for the fallen along Boylston Street on Sunday morning.

It is unmistakable that every athlete present today showcased an impressive feat of stamina and strength. The amount of training that each marathoner has put into this race is staggering. But these marathoners, for the most part, aren’t competing for fame.

Athletes from 110 countries were present this year, and from those countries, over 200 charities were represented.

Among them was the Martin Richard Foundation, started in memory of the youngest of the bombing victims. Representing team MR8, as they have come to be known, was Meb Keflezighi, the 2014 Boston Marathon Elite Men’s winner. In addition to Keflezighi, team MR8 had 114 other members registered in today’s race.

Whether or not an athlete placed well, and regardless if they even finished at all, every person who embarked along the marathon route today is a testament to the will of a city, as are their families, friends, and all of the service and health personnel who aided the athletes along their journey. They represented perseverance in the face of uncertainty, and an unflinching attitude that cut through the stormiest of days, both literally and figuratively.

The Boston Marathon is more than just a footrace. It’s a test in resilience and in hope, and that was evident today.

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