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First-time Runners of the Boston Marathon

May 3, 2013
Custom House Tower in Boston, Mass.

Custom House Tower in Boston, Mass.

When I was in Boston on Wednesday, I met a middle-aged man who ran his first marathon, ever, this year in Boston. Because of the violence that stopped the event prematurely, he, like more than 5000 other runners, didn’t cross the finish line. A new-comer to running, he doesn’t want to lose his conditioning without completing a marathon. So, he’s keeping to his pre-marathon work-out schedule and will run another marathon within the month.

And on Wednesday, he finally claimed his marathon-day backpack*, which he’d not been able to retrieve in the commotion of the days after the marathon. (Marathon runners leave, at the starting area, personal items that are transported to the finish line in plastic marathon “backpacks” while they run. They claim their bag after they run the marathon. Hundreds of bags were not able to be claimed at the end of the race this year.)

His story is far from the death and the physical and psychological harm that occurred in the immediate perimeter of the explosions. But I found myself, as I listened to this first-time-marathon-runner, trying to imagine the myriad stories of the runners of this year’s Boston Marathon. This subcategory of first-time runners who did not finish the Boston Marathon could be a study unto itself. I feel certain that despite the profound shake-up to the human spirit that day, they’ll each complete a marathon or be back in Boston next April.

* Will the word “backpack” ever sound the same to us?

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