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Advocate running columnist: Terrorism tarnishes runner's ultimate dream

By By Missy Janzow
April 15, 2013 at 7:05 p.m.
Updated April 15, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.

People react as an explosion goes off near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon in Boston on Monday. Two bombs  went off near the finish line, sending authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while the stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts.

MEMORIAL RUN

• WHAT: Run for Boston's fallen runners

• WHEN: 6:45 p.m. Wednesday

• WHERE: Children's playground area of Riverside Park

• WHAT: 3-mile run/walk with first 10 minutes in silence to honor those who died or were injured in Monday's Boston Marathon attack

• FOR MORE INFORMATION: Email janzowml@ yahoo.com.

As a runner growing up, I looked to qualifying for the Boston Marathon as one of my ultimate athletic goals.

When I finally reached the point in my life to be able to focus on that particular goal, train hard for 12 months to attain it and then ultimately reach that goal in November 1999, I was on cloud nine.

I actually didn't run the Boston Marathon that next year due to finances, but I fortunately was able to train and qualify again in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. I didn't run it each year, but I have run the Boston Marathon twice, in 2005 and 2008.

As both a runner and a coach, I know the hard work, countless training hours, mental fortitude and, ultimately, a bit of genetic capability that all goes into a runner being able to not only cover 26.2 miles, but also cover them quickly enough to meet a specific qualifying time.

Qualifying standards were put into effect to establish the Boston Marathon as a sort of "Super Bowl" of running. Not everyone can run there - you have to be fast enough, really fast.

The standards were tightened in February 2011 by five minutes, making it even tougher to qualify now.

The Boston Marathon is so steeped in marathon history and tradition and those qualifying standards that it attracts the best runners from all over the world.

Will this, the runner's ultimate dream of qualifying and running the Boston Marathon, now be forever tarnished? I spoke with one of my former athletes I coached, who also happens to be my friend as well as a former Boston qualifier.

Gay Wickham ran the Boston Marathon in 2008 and had this to say: "It's such a happy event filled with such determined-type people. I am sad for all those who are there and now have had their experiences tainted and especially sad for those who are hurt. I think I would return again if I qualified. My experience was wonderful, though grueling. There will now always be a shadow over the Boston Marathon."

When you turn on the news and see an act of terrorism play out in some remote part of the world, you can become somewhat unfazed by it all. You don't expect it in the sporting arena, yet it has happened before Monday.

The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta come to mind.

And now it seems that the glory, prestige and history of the Boston Marathon will now also be marred by an act of terrorism. The investigation is just now starting, and it could be days, weeks or even months until it is discovered who is responsible and what exactly happened.

What we do know is that runners were running toward the finish line of the most prestigious marathon in the world, and something terrible happened. Two explosions occurred, sending runners and spectators to the ground and scrambling for safety to escape the chaos unfolding around them. Initial reports are that three were killed and more than 140 were injured.

As I sat here watching it unfold before my eyes on the television screen, I couldn't help but feel my heart sink. I have crossed that finish line myself in 2005 and 2008. I can recall the fatigue that set in over those 26.2 miles - I would say the toughest 26.2 miles I have ever run.

I can remember the simultaneous feeling of exhaustion and my impatience in wanting to get to the finish line so that I could collapse into the arms of the volunteers; but I also remember the feeling of wanting the last 200 meters to last forever - you never know when or if you will be able to return.

I can remember the emotion that welled up in my throat, fighting back the tears as I was greeted by thunderous applause from the bandstands of spectators lined up to cheer me and the others into the finish, and realizing dreams can come true.

I can remember in 2008 crossing the line and collapsing onto the pavement into a sea of other fallen runners, all of us exhausted to the breaking point.

I can remember volunteers attending to my every need, feeding me, massaging my calves and helping me back to my feet where I marched alongside my fellow runners to the recovery area, and we shared our common "war stories" as if we had been off in battle for the last four hours. We walked and talked, sharing our stories of exhaustion, cramping, lost toenails and how we worried if we would finish.

And now this, the 2013 edition of the Boston Marathon, how will it be remembered? Will this act now be its legacy? There were fallen "soldiers" Monday.

Runners fell to the ground, not from exhaustion, but from bombs going off. Some were wounded, and some were killed. Can this be real?

I feel for every single runner and spectator affected Monday. Their memories of Boston are forever scarred by the events that have unfolded.

I can't imagine working so hard to get there, having this type of tragedy unfold and never being able to cross the finish line as it had been intended.

Or even worse, witnessing some of the horror that occurred when the blasts happened. I would feel robbed of my Boston Marathon experience.

However, I will say this: If I ever qualify again, I would definitely return.

Terrorism is defined as the use of a violent act intended to frighten people. Why allow a senseless act to destroy dreams and take a lifetime experience away?

I will not allow that to happen for myself, and I would expect other runners would feel the same.

We are a determined bunch.

Missy Janzow received her B.S. in dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition business that serves to train the novice or seasoned triathlete or runner. You can reach her with your questions at janzowml@yahoo.com.

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