I've run the Boston Marathon three times, last in about 2001. It's a fantastic marathon, where slots are awarded according to ability rather than how much you spend on local races (hello NYC), extremely challenging because of the way it's laid out (8 miles down, 8 miles up, last 10 down and holy shit, you can't believe how much a downhill can hurt at that point) and supported by locals with unbelievable intensity. The last time I ran Boston, I stopped just before the finish line to hug my son Sean, then still small enough for his dad to lift him up over the barricades, and perhaps a year or two younger than the child who died yesterday a few blocks away.
So, let me say this: It is terrible that someone has used this event for his/her sick agenda, whatever that agenda might be. It is shocking to inject violence into something that is, really, a celebration of the human spirit, of discipline over exhaustion, of the joy of physical strength and the almost mystical moment when physical strength gives out and you go on anyway. It is a very, very sad day, and my heart goes out to the families of dead and injured and the thousands of people who will never feel really safe in a public place again.
I say all this, but I also beg Boston and the running community and America itself not to overreact. If we lock down the Boston Marathon -- and all other marathons -- we lose something essential about being human and trusting one another and striving together for something difficult. Sure, you can run all the bags through a metal detector. Sure, you can have heavily-armed guys in flak jackets all along the route. Sure, you can identity checks and verifications everywhere. But that will ruin the marathon in so many ways (not least the added cost). Let's be sensible about this, and accept that bad things are going to happen and that we cannot prevent all of them. Let's catch the fuckers who did this and move on and live our lives as before. We've already let 9/11 drag us into two wars and ruin air travel...can't we keep the marathon the way it is?