Good Outruns Evil in the Wake of the Boston Marathon

Words can’t describe the events that transpired on Monday afternoon in Boston. What began as a beautiful, jovial, and exciting day, quickly transformed into chaos, confusion, and utter horror. While I will never understand or know what it was like to be there when those first two explosions occurred, the atrocious nature and closeness of this event impacted me in a way that I know at least 26,000 other people share.  I was one of the runners.

The Boston Marathon is one of running’s hallmark events. At 117 years in the running, the spectacle is the world’s oldest annual marathon. To qualify, a Boston marathoner must run a marathon within a specified time for their respective age group within the year preceding the race. The athletes who are accepted to run the race are of the 99.99 percentile of any runner in their class.

Needless to say, we train relentlessly for months on-end. We run our bodies into the ground, braving illness, weather, and often injury in order to perform at our peak ability come the day of the race. And when we finish, we no longer ask about time, because making it is enough. It’s just hugs and congratulations. We are BQers (Boston Qualifiers) and now, finishers. For all of us who have the honor and privilege of running with the best of the best, we take this day seriously and hold the utmost respect for everyone toeing that magical line.

This day also celebrates the wonderful history of Boston area. Marathon Monday is a family tradition for many in the region. Hi-fiving and kissing passing runners creates lifelong memories that pass down from generation to generation. During the 2012 marathon, over 500,000 people weathered a 90-degree day to watch the run and celebrate the tradition. It’s not just a race. It’s a part of life and a day held very close to the proud inhabitants of Boston. Nothing will keep Bostonians from celebrating this day; not even a coordinated terrorist attack. They will return in 2014, prouder and more ecstatic than ever. As runners, the Boston Marathon would not be as legendary without the unwavering support of the thousands of fans who line the streets all day. I think I can speak for all of the runners when I say that we appreciate the fans and volunteers above anyone else.

This day represents the physical and emotional sacrifice, dedication, and resilience of so many people. For many, it is the pinnacle of a running career. For others, the race is an annual tradition spanning decades. The marathon serves as a celebration of athletic excellence. It is the epitome of everything we work for, and serves as a benchmark for our status in the running community. I know that no other runner will allow this despicable act of terror change the prestige of this remarkable event. We will return next year, prouder, braver, and even better athletes. Bostonians will come out louder and more enthusiastic than ever. The community will not allow these terrorists the satisfaction of instilling fear into us.

The most amazing thing about the incident was watching people’s reactions. Seeing footage of already fatigued runners sprint to help those wounded, or my family and friends immediately contacting me inspired hope that genuinely good people exist within this world. I will never know just how bad Boylston St. became, for I had already finished and left the downtown area. Nonetheless, I feel close to everything that happened, not only because of the sheer luck of avoiding the explosion, but also because of everything the Boston Marathon means to me and the entire community.

While we will always remember that horrific afternoon, the Boston Marathon will maintain its honor among athletes and fans alike. It will continue to unite people for one day around humankind’s purest form of athletic expression. I know I will return next year, just as humbled and excited to toe the line.

Thank you to the men and women in uniform (and in shorty shorts and spandex), who were the first on the scene, risking their lives in order to help. You are heroes. Thank you to my family and friends who showed unending support and concern for my safety. My heart, love, and condolences go out to all of the families affected by this tragedy. Nothing can explain this act of unadulterated evil. Next year we will not only run for ourselves, but for those that cannot share the Boston experience.

We are runners. We are strong enough to endure miles of every kind of pain imaginable. We crave pushing the envelope, never fearing the unknown. Most importantly, nothing will stop us from running. Because of this, the organizers of this purely evil attack, though still at large, will never win.

Michael Fucci is a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the Sanford School.  A version of the commentary was published in The Durham Herald-Sun.