Exactly one week after the bombings took place in Boston, a large group of runners and supporters alike gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. It was the starting point for a solidarity march that would lead the group to the American Embassy where people were invited to hang a donation of gently used running shoes from the fence line.
As I looked around the crowd I realized how many people were sporting Boston 2013 jackets. So many had made the trip from Ottawa to run the race this year. A lot of other people had Boston jackets on from previous years – others were just alone, taking it all in, and there to show their support.
Looking at the crowd, you couldn’t help but think, it was important for us to get together to do this. Events across North America like this one have brought communities together. People are finding comfort in a crowd of people who are asking similar questions. A week ago it was “How could this have happened?” Today it’s “Will Boston ever be the same?”
Debby Duford was one face I found amongst the crowd. She runs a women’s learn to run clinic out of a Running Room located in Downtown Ottawa. Like the rest of us she realizes an event like this impacts the way things are, whether we like it or not.
“One of the first things I thought to myself was,”Great. Terrorists have screwed up air travel and now they’ve done it to races too.”
Debby is actually a volunteer with Ottawa Race Weekend – despite the fact that she works in the finish line area, she isn’t worried about her safety. What resonates with her is the impact this will have on the overall mood of the event.
“A senseless act like this has ramifications, and there have to be steps taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But at the same time, this takes away the innocence of it.”
Rhiannon Vogl is a runner from Ottawa who showed up for the event. She’s run a handful of marathons and about 10 half-marathons. Vogl was a participant in Boston in 2010 and it was her first time racing outside the National Capital Region. She said it was like going from little league to the big league.
“The first thing I noticed was the crowds in Boston. The support for runners along the whole route was just amazing.”
Speaking from experience, Vogl knows what goes into training for a marathon. It’s not just the countless miles you have to log in bad weather, it’s also with the support of your family and friends. Before you even get to the race, you’ve got a crowd of people cheering for you. This of course is amplified on race day, and at an event like Boston? You feel it multiplied by the thousands. Face after face that you don’t know, cheering you along the route. It’s part of the experience – and in the case of Boston, she says it’s part of what makes the event so unique.
“When you race a marathon, your whole family is running with you. Changing things too much only gives into the culture of fear,” said Vogel.
Duford said that she had already heard from the volunteer coordinator about security changes coming for Ottawa Race Weekend. She’s been told that people without proper security screenings won’t be allowed in the finish area.
But it seems that what happened in Boston, doesn’t change people’s attitudes towards that race, or any other event for that matter.
Giles Beauparlant raced at Boston this year. His hotel was only blocks away from the finish line. He’s not deterred by what happened.
“Sure, it will make it different next time. But it doesn’t stop me from doing it again,” he said.
“Nope. Not runners. Runners are resilient – they train in everything. An event like this isn’t going to stop them. Runners just have the character,”said Duford.”
Vogel felt similarly.
“I think this will make people want to run Boston more.”
Judging by the spirit of those hanging shoes along the American Embassy’s fence line, you would have to agree. Support for Boston has always been huge – people line the entire length of the race route to cheer on family members and complete strangers. What happened in Boston has brought that same community even closer together. Boston may never be the same, but in many ways, it’s changed the reason why people want to be part of the event. It’s about protecting what will rightfully always belong to those who work hard to get there.