It all started In April last year, when an estimated 100,000 people entered the ballot for the 2013 Virgin London Marathon. Just over 35,000 applications were approved, and a year’s hard training of graft, sweat and tears set into motion.
Twelve months ago, while an onerous undertaking, the marathon was simply a battle against 26.2 miles of the capital’s streets. The tragic events in Boston last weekend changed that entirely.
The marathon was no longer simply a marathon. It had become an act of courage beyond that of the inevitable physical exertion, as the palpable sense of evil still lay heavy in the air. It had become an act of solidarity for the hundreds of innocent Americans tragically affected by the heinous atrocity. It had become more than a race, more than simply a time.
Living in Britain my entire life, I grew up strangely void of much of the patriotic pride that should have swelled in my breast. Much of the country and its policies annoyed me as my damning assessment unfairly tarnished the land of my birth. It was naive, ungrateful and horrendously shortsighted.
My eyes have opened, and interestingly it has taken sport to show me the error of my ridiculous ignorance.
The land of my birth is not perfect, far from it. Yet, as I watched in my privileged role as an event steward at last Summer Olympics, it was with an intense swelling pride bursting in my chest.
I was proud of Britain for having the foresight, ingenuity and capabilities to delivery such an astonishing event. I was proud of its athletes for performing so commendably in achieving the nation’s greatest ever Olympics medal tally. Most of all, though, I was proud of the people of Britain, whose patriotism, effervescence and joy I will never forget for as long as I live.
The Olympic legacy lives on, but the hype has now died away. It is history, but what a glorious achievement.
I am currently traveling after my graduation from university this last autumn and have been out of Britain for an extended period. When I left the freezing temperatures, with a blanket of snow covering the ground, my sojourn until the summer could not have been more welcome. It has been all I expected and more. Don’t get me wrong: I am not ready to come home yet, but moments like today make me wish I was there.
It would have been easy for runners and spectators to stay away, fearing for their safety after last weekend’s atrocious betrayal of morality. That they didn’t is the greatest accolade both for Britain and the human race.
It is a display of valor, of courage and of unity. The only sign of the heightened tension was the additional security force that had been drafted in as a preemptive measure.
London fell silent for 30 seconds to honor the tragic victims of Boston. It was a moment of sombre amidst a day of joy. Boston was with London and its citizens every step of the way, but in joy came the greatest sign of respect. This was a show of defiance to terrorism, a city united in sporting attainment and patriotic pride.
The men and women’s winners, Tsegaye Kebede and Prischa Jeptoo, ran very impressive time on the traditionally fast course, but their achievements were only the headlines to a dearth of stories.
Each and every person who ran, jogged or dragged themselves past Cutty Sark, over Tower Bridge and down the Mall had a story. Each of them had to triumph over adversity and conquer understandable reservations before the afternoon was out.
It was a beautiful display of the quintessential British spirit. A beautiful display of the quintessential human spirit.
Personal bests were broken, goals smashed. Huge amounts of money were again raised for the plethora deserving charities that benefit so extraordinarily from the race each year. It was a triumph of all it is to be human.
One Boston bomber lies dead, and the other lies critically injured in hospital. It is possible that neither will live to face the atrocities they so abhorrently committed. Yet the ramifications of their actions will live on in the hearts of Boston and the world long after their death or incarceration.
It is true to say that in adversity we find our true selves, and in London today, the honored victims of Boston had a befitting tribute.
Last week a race, a display of sport and of community was ruined by a terrorist atrocity. Today, as he started the race, organizer Geoff Wightman honored Boston in his touching address;
Marathon running is a global sport. It unites runners and supporters on every continent in pursuit of a common challenge and in the spirit of friendship and fellowship. This week the world marathon family was shocked and saddened by the events at the Boston Marathon. In a few moments a whistle will sound and we will join together in silence to remember our friends and colleagues for whom a day of joy turned into a day of sadness.
Prince Harry, at the marathon to hand out the medals, typified the spirit of all attendees:
The way Boston has dealt with it is remarkable. The great thing about the marathon is that no matter what colour, religion or nationality you are, everyone comes together to run and raise money for amazing causes. You can never take that away from people. It was never an option not to be here no one has changed any plans it has been really well run as it always is.
The final word should be left to former England captain Andrew Strauss, who ran the race in honor of Boston’s victims and to prove that “terrorism doesn’t work.”
Today, sitting on the other side of the world, I am proud to be British. Most of all though, I am proud to be human.