International Athletics

Boston to shake 2013 shadow

2014-04-20 14:57
Boston marathon (AFP)

Boston - Runners, from the world's elite racers to first-timers, will step to the Boston Marathon starting line on Monday for the first running of the world-renowned race since last year's deadly bombing attack.

Some 36,000 people, the second-largest field in the race's 118-year history, will set out from Hopkinton, a town west of Boston, for the 26.2-mile race that finishes on Boston's Boylston Street, where two homemade pressure-cooker bombs last year killed three people and injured 264.

For the top men and women runners, including 2013 winners Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa and Kenya's Rita Jeptoo, the focus will be entirely on the competition.

The fans, hundreds of thousands of whom are expected to line the course, will also be rooting for top U.S. entrants including Ryan Hall of California and Desiree Linden of Michigan. Either could be the first American to stand atop the podium in three decades, breaking a long domination of the event by African athletes.

A heavy police presence is planned and racers and supporters will face new restrictions including a ban on backpacks, which the ethnic Chechen brothers accused in the April 15, 2013, attack were believed to have used to carry the bombs.

While the memory of the attacks has hung heavy over Boston through the week of events leading up to the race, Linden said it wouldn't affect her thinking come race day.

"That's a backward thought process," said Linden, who in 2011 finished in second place, missing victory by two seconds. "I don't need a terrorist event to be motivated. I'm inspired by the city and the people and I'll honour that ... Boston is such a big event in itself that you don't need extra motivation, especially not that kind."

Race organizers, the Boston Athletic Association, admitted an additional 9,000 runners this year, in part to ensure that the roughly 5,000 people on the course when the blasts occurred get a chance to cross this finish line.

Many runners train for years to post the fast, age-graded qualifying times needed to earn a spot, while others commit to raising thousands of dollars for charity.

This year's race could bring a sense of closure for some concerning the attack, experts said. Memories of the horrific incident were stirred after a memorial service on Tuesday, when a shoeless man in a black veil, shouting "Boston Strong" dropped a backpack on the street near the finish line.

Police said the backpack contained a rice cooker. The man was arrested and charged with possession of a hoax device.

"Loose ends are a nagging source of stress," said Joseph Tecce, an associate professor of psychology at Boston College, who added that seeing a race go off smoothly could help people overcome their memories of the attack. "There will be fears, nagging doubts and insecurities, but there will also be an anticipation that it's all going to go away if we just wait until April 21, when people start hitting the street again."

One runner who may know more than most about helping a society overcome lingering fears of an attack is Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States.

Faily will run to show solidarity with the people of Boston and the United States. It will not be his first marathon, as he also ran after the 2011 Fukushima tsunami while stationed in Japan.

"We will stand with each other in defying terrorism and making a pure sporting event, a sporting statement that terrorism will never prevail," Faily said. "If the marathon was stopped because of last year's event, then they would have won."

NEXT ON SPORT24X

SA Sevens aiming for gold

29 minutes ago

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
Live Video Streaming
  • SS3
    Fri, 25 Jul 2014 @04:00
  • SS4:
    Fri, 25 Jul 2014 @05:00
  • SS5:
    Fri, 25 Jul 2014 @06:00
  • Blitz
    Fri, 25 Jul 2014 @07:00
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

Live scoring

 
 
Featured Blog

Dave ask if you would like to meet your local sports heroes and stand the chance to win prizes to the value of over R40 000.

Latest blogs
Vote

How much of a runner are you?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Newsletters Sign up for the Morning Glory, Super 15 and Soccer newsletters

Blogs Yes your opinion counts. Get it out there

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

Mobile Sport24 on your mobile phone - WAP, alerts, downloads, services

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

iPhone Latest Sport24 news on your iPhone

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

TV schedule Plan your couch time with our searchable sport TV guide

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.