This one will feel different. Boston has seen to that. The terrible pictures from last Monday, and the ongoing hunt for those responsible, will be present in at least 37,000 minds during the London Marathon this Sunday. A moment’s pause before the race and a donation for each runner; thoughtful ways to mark tragedy.
But no gesture, however fitting, will ever be enough for those who have been hurt or bereaved. That’s as true for those affected in Boston as it is for Steven’s parents. The Leading Light campaign won’t bring back their son.
In tragedy and in triumph, as in marathons, the only response is to keep moving forward. The London Marathon is one of those special days when you realise that you aren’t moving forward alone.
Look at your fellow runners as you move down the Embankment – heroic grimaces on every face and good causes proud on every chest. Look into the crowds (especially the LLR team at Tower Bridge) – hundreds of thousands of strangers smiling, shouting, stomping, cheering and willing you on. They shout your name or catch your eye and pump a fist. People you have never seen; who you will never see again. Finishing 26.2 miles might be a personal triumph, but the real beauty is in the sharing.
Last Monday we saw that sharing take on another face. Spectators and stewards threw down the barriers and ran back towards the fire to help the casualties. Runner crossed the line and kept going until they reached the hospital, queuing to give blood.
As we approach our own flagship marathon, the British press is doing its typically cynical job in trying to make a scandal out of Mo Farah’s decision to only run half the race. Who cares? Mo is great and it detracts from the story that should be told and that Sunday will show – that the tragedy in Boston last week will achieve the opposite of what the bombers will have wanted. 37,000 people will still run. Hundreds of thousands of people will still turn out to smile, shout, stomp and cheer. Millions will still donate their hard-earned money to help others.
Last Monday was terrible and my heart goes out to everyone affected. I will be thinking about them on Sunday. But Boston will bounce back stronger and we will be with them. If the people who did this thought any of us could be cowed or scared off, they clearly don’t understand what Sunday is about. It is the greatest celebration of human tenacity that I have ever been part of. And I can’t wait.
I appeal to you all to come down and share in it. If you’ve never seen it happen listen to Kathrine Switzer, the first woman ever to run the Boston Marathon: “If you are losing your faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”