It was crisp, cool and sunny on Monday as Patriot’s Day dawned in Boston — perfect for running a marathon.
Since its beginnings in the late 1890s, the state holiday has been continually intertwined with the Boston Athletic Association’s annual 26.2 mile footrace. And on this Patriot’s Day, one year after terrorist bombs struck, America found itself “Boston Strong” as it witnesses a triumph of the American spirit.
The tradition of running a marathon on Patriot’s Day — now in its 118th year — has always hearkened back to colonial triumph. But from Monday going forward, the Boston Marathon will now also signal triumph over terrorism.
Patriot’s Day commemorates America’s first battles for freedom against the British: the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. That was the first time that American patriots courageously stood up to the British military. In forcing their retreat, the Massachusetts Minutemen found themselves stunned by their own success.
According to Yoni Appelbaum, a lecturer at Boston College and a contributor to TheAtlantic.com, “Before the break of day on April 19, 1775, Paul Revere rode thirteen miles to Lexington in a little less than two hours, rousing the countryside to arms. William Dawes, riding by a different route, covered seventeen miles in about three hours. But on April 19, 1897, (the date of the first Boston Marathon), J.J. McDermott ran longer, and faster, than either man's horse. Faster, in fact, than any marathoner had before. He finished the race course in just 2 hours, 55 minutes, and 10 seconds, and was borne off the course on the shoulders of the cheering throngs.”
For more than a century, there have been countless tales of personal endurance born in Boston at this most American of races. On Monday, for the first time in more than three decades, it was an American runner who ran the fastest. Meb Keflezighi, an Etritrean refugee who immigrated with his family to the United States when he was just 12 years old, crossed the finish line in a mere 2 hours, 8 minutes and 37 seconds.
He won the victory beating back an extremely close end-of-race challenge from Kenyan runners Wilson Chebet and Frankline Chepkwony. In an interview, Keflezighi spoke about what it meant to win Boston one year after a terrorist attack at last year’s finish line. That attack killed three people, injured 260 and paralyzed the city with terror.
“I was standing on the grandstand last year and I missed it by five minutes — the bomb explosion,” Keflezighi said an interview. “This is beyond running. This is for Boston, for the U.S. and for the world. We are resilient, and we never give up.”
Concluding his essay on the Boston Marathon, Appelbaum said: “The great truth celebrated on Patriot's Day is that free societies are inherently stronger and more resilient than those who attack them. That despite their flaws, they draw their strength from their commitment to moving forward, one painful step at a time, in the direction of a more perfect future. There's no more fitting symbol of that ancient lesson than a marathon.”
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