Editor's weekly: Lessons from the marathon
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 16, 2013 - Dear Beaconites --
You don't run a marathon on a whim. You don't run a marathon because it's easy. And unless you're part of a rarified elite, you don't run a marathon to win.
For most who dare to participate, 26.2 miles presents a test of character. You commit to train despite doubts that you can succeed. You continue forward though your inner voice and your aching muscles beg to stop.
You fall behind, yet gain something more valuable than first place. In the camaraderie on the race course and in the accomplishment at the finish line, you find the best of the human spirit in pure and tangible form.
Monday, explosions at the Boston Marathon attacked that spirit. We don't yet know whether they were the product of a deranged individual, a hateful ideology or a sinister group. But we do know they spread injury, death and a new level of fear. And we do know what to call them -- evil.
As images of joyful celebration gave way to mayhem, some said the attacks marked the end of innocence. The Boston Marathon and similar public celebrations will never be the same, they predicted. But surely that innocence was lost long ago -- on Sept. 11, 2001, if not before. Monday brought a shocking reminder that life can be fragile and death can be random. But sad to say, this was yet another reminder of something we already knew.
Rather than focus on what might have been lost in Boston, we might better focus on what can be found. In the aftermath of the explosions, safety personnel and spectators found the courage to rush forward and help the wounded. Officials and news media, for the most part, found the patience to avoid jumping to conclusions. In coming weeks, perhaps we'll find additional ways to reduce the risk that such carnage will happen again.
But most important, what we can find in Boston is renewed appreciation for the spirit that the marathon celebrates. To run 26.2 miles requires tenacity, resilience and commitment in the face of adversity. Yesterday, with lives on the line, those strengths of the human spirit passed a much more profound test.
May we find courage in the face of evil to celebrate that spirit a year from now in Boston and every day in between.