To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles, And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep No more; And by a sleep, to say we end The Heart-ache, And the thousand Natural shocks That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep, To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.
William Shakespeare – “Hamlet”
I may be an athlete, but I was never a distance runner. I tried to run for awhile and was able to run 2 miles when I stopped. I didn’t enjoy it. I would rather ride a bike. And no, I have no aspirations of riding in the Tour de France. But I understand why people run. It’s about personal achievement, mastery of your body and mind. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to participate, just buy a pair of well-fitted running shoes. You don’t need to be well coordinated. You don’t need to be well muscled, Being well muscled is not an advantage in distance running. What you do need is patience and perseverance. You need self-discipline to get out of bed to run every morning. You learn how to control your mind and body.
Running the Boston Marathon is a great personal achievement, much more so now than the first one in 1897. It has become much more difficult to qualify to run the Marathon because it has become an international event. The beauty of watching runners from all inhabited continents running side by side makes the world smaller and more interconnected. I have seen the Boston Marathon in person and it is a wonderful spectacle. Seeing the wheelchair racers slingshot off the hills going 20-30 miles per hour. Being part of the crazy scene by Wellesley College, where the coeds give bottles of water and granola bars to the runners as they pass by. Watching the runners climb the hills, pain etched on their faces. Cheering the runners at the finish line as they are smiling with accomplishment, but fighting exhaustion. The Marathon is a rite of spring and a triumph of the human spirit. It is a symbol of why Boston is a special city and of the best in American values.
You participate in the Boston Marathon as a runner, volunteer or observer as a celebration of life. Future Marathons will also mourn the dead – a 8 year old boy, a 23 year old female student from China and a 30 year old female restaurant worker – killed in the 2013 bombing. At least 282 people were maimed or injured. Some were runners who happened to be crossing or near the finish line when the bombs exploded, who have lost feet, legs, arms and suffered internal injuries.
Many of the injured have vowed to return and run again. They have overcome the thousand Natural shocks That Flesh is heir to, and in this case, man made shocks, too. Per chance. Those killed and injured had no expectation to be involved in act of terrorism. They just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are all subject to chance by every action we make. We assume that everything will go as planned and everyone else will act appropriately. No drunk drivers ramming into your car. No tires blowing and sending your car careening headlong into a tree. No swallowing broken glass in a meal served in a restaurant. You can come up with reasons not to do anything and everything. But you do go on because the chance of these events occurring to you today is small. So will the Boston Marathon Monday, April 21, for the 117th time.
It will still be the unique event that shows the best of what Boston offers. It will be more heavily policed. It will have lost some of its innocence and fun. It will still be a celebration of life and personal achievement. It will have gained additional resilience that only comes from overcoming tragedy by will and perseverance.
Per chance, the 2014 Boston Marathon and future marathons will be free from incidence.
Copyright © March 2014, Michael A. Maynard, Stow, Massachusetts.
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