The Boston Marathon: What went Wrong

Ryan Wight
April 18, 2013

The marathon is a celebration of Pheidippides, whom according to legend, was a messenger in the battle of Marathon, running from the battle all the way to Athens to tell the people that the Persians had been defeated. He then collapsed and died. The legendary run was thought to have been about 26.2 miles, which was adopted as the official marathon distance.

The Boston is the world’s most famous marathon, having started in 1897. Since the first running, it has grown in popularity with an expected 23,000 runners having taken part on Monday. It is also one of the most challenging races to qualify for. This year men under the age of 35 must have run a race in under 3:05:00 in the past year just to have a chance at entering.

For the elite runner, The Boston is their chance at glory and a $150,000 pay day. For the many amateurs, the day represents the pinnacle of their running careers. They have travelled to Boston from afar to finish the race and be able to tell their grandkids one day that they ran The Boston. Many had their husbands, wives and children in the stands cheering them on. Many of those husbands, wives and children were the ones that got hit by the explosives. Many of those that were in Boston on Monday will now be telling tales of horror instead of happiness.

In Boston, Patriot’s Day is a local holiday. An event that includes the Red Sox playing an 11:00 am game, partying in the street and one that culminates with the Boston Marathon. On Monday, the celebration turned into horror as two bombs went off 15 seconds apart that have taken three lives, with 173 reported to have been taken to the hospital. As of Tuesday morning, 17 were in critical condition, including eight children.

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At 2:45 pm, a bomb went off and 15 seconds later a second explosion occurred. This occurred at 4:09 on the race clock, just before the 4:15 average race time. It is doubtful that this is a coincidence. These explosions were meant to go off to create maximum carnage. Right around the time where the majority of the competitors were finishing the race, where the loved ones were waiting at the finish line, these explosives tried to take out as many people as possible. The explosives were filled with BBs, nails and other metallic objects for the purpose of inflicting as much damage to as many humans as possible. Hospitals are reporting pulling the BBs and nails out of children that were there to cheer on their parents, all innocent spectators.

As first responders entered the stands, countless limbless bodies were laying on the ground. Tourniquets were being fashioned out of clothing, flags, belts and whatever other material was available to stop the loss of blood. It is miraculous that only three persons lost their lives, however countless others have lost arms, legs, feet and/or hands. The physical damage coupled with the blood-stained ground displays the savagery. The wounded and those lucky enough to escape unharmed physically are guaranteed to suffer emotionally because of whoever did this. Fortunately, only two of the three reported explosives went off. What was a sickening scene in itself could have been even worse had the bomb on the other side of the stands gone off. We know what happened, but are still waiting to find out who, and why.

The incident is eerily similar to the bombing of the opening ceremonies at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics where Eric Rudolph planted a pipe bomb that killed two people and wounded 111 others. After the Olympic bombing, security has been increased at sporting events to stop any future attempts. Stadiums have become much more secured because of this, however a 26.2 mile course poses an entirely different scenario. It is near impossible to ensure such a large area can be secure, but popular sections of the course can be. The perpetrator(s) laid their bombs in a dense population zone to explode at the point where it could cause the most damage, therefore the start line and the finish line make for the two most probable areas. The start line is extremely hectic and full of security personnel which would make it too risky, whereas the finish line has a large amount of grandstands and runners coming in at a more spread out pace, therefore reducing the need for security. This left an opening for three bombs to be planted, without being detected. Unfortunately a sick individual or individuals took advantage.

In the future, we’ll see a large increase in security presence. More bomb sniffing dogs, random bag checks. The Boston will lose some of its charm. The street parties will be more subdued, if allowed at all. The police will do their best to make it safe, but the public and the event will suffer because of it unfortunately. Runners are a hearty bunch. They will be back next year. Running for themselves, their families and their amazing charities and causes that they support. Boston will overcome, but it will be different.

The marathon is a celebration of human will, mental strength and challenging the limits of endurance. After the bombs went off we saw the first responders running towards the blasts, potentially putting their lives in jeopardy in order to save others. These responders had to disregard their flight instincts and decided to fight, saving many lives through their care. Those that witnessed and survived the attack will be challenged with survivor’s guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder and possibly the fallout of now being an amputee or a loved-one being an amputee. I hope they get the treatment and care they deserve. There are countless stories of runners who just completed the grueling 26.2 mile run continuing on right past the finish line to the nearest hospital to donate blood. An amazing feat of endurance.

Monday may have shown the worst in people, with the senseless terror attack, but it also shows the best. Pheidippides would be proud.

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The Author:

Ryan Wight