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HOS Alun Cooper reflects on the Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon, just like any official marathon, is the supreme test of an athlete’s ability to sustain the physical, emotional and psychological stresses associated with running 42.195 kilometers or 26 miles and 385 yards. Such a race always produces a number of runners who never cross the finishing line because they have had an accident, have injured themselves or have lost the will to continue having experienced the ultimate levels of exhaustion. There is no shame attached to not completing the marathon, normally merely a determination to finish at the next possible race.

However, what is not expected is that some people, not runners themselves, have targeted the race in order to seek publicity for their political points of view or to seek revenge for alleged wrongs against them or their political views. While it is true that the flags of the countries of the competitors flew proudly around the streets, the competitors were not racing for their country, merely for themselves and for the intense feeling that is associated with completing this supreme running challenge.

Therefore, it is difficult for runners, or spectators to contemplate why somebody would have singled out this particular day to commit this particular atrocity. I would argue that nobody who walked to the start line of the marathon on Monday had any political motivation. Far from it, they were probably more concerned with their race tactics, their desire to overcome the fear of the pain that was to follow or, for a significant number, the amount of money that they would raise for the charity that they were supporting. In no case did they constitute a threat to the national or international stage.

Yet some people died and many were injured. Those who were not physically injured may well have been psychologically scarred for life and I ask myself why. Why would somebody want to do this to people that they did not know? I cannot believe it possible, but we have enough evidence from Monday as well as other horrific tragedies of a similar ilk to know that such things happen. How do we respond? Do we seek to impose even tighter levels of security? Do we stop such events from taking place? Do we want to attach premature blame and seek revenge?

On all counts, no! A thousand times no. If we bow the knee to cowardly terrorists of whatever creed or political persuasion, we hand them the laurel wreath of the winner. If we act in a manner that reflects righteous indignation, we merely reflect the baser instincts of those who have caused so much pain.

Rather we must encourage all those runners who were prevented from completing their marathon to race again as soon as possible. We must ask everybody to come out and to support those runners, to stand there and to applaud. We must manifest our desire for the world that we believe in; a world of openness and of hope.

It is by far a more difficult road that we have to follow. Yet if we heed the comments of our runners over many years, indeed since the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides, a messenger from the Battle of Marathon to Athens, we will come to appreciate that to taste the sweet taste of victory we have to push pain and fear to the backs of our minds. That does not mean that we forget and nor indeed that we are quick to forgive, but what it does mean is that we are determined to continue our race and we will not be deterred, not by threat and nor by fear.

Our thoughts go out to those who died and to those who were injured on Monday in a senseless act. We will not forget them, but neither will we allow others to stop us from continuing to exalt in the chase for personal excellence even though that implies pain and personal suffering; albeit in a manner that the perpetrators of this deed will never be able to understand. That is why they will never win and that is why we must not allow them to believe that we will ever allow them to taste victory.

The above post originally appeared on THINK Spot.

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