For over a century, the Boston Marathon has been an event centered around sportsmanship, endurance and athleticism, but there’s no denying the face of the renowned race has been changed forever.
Today, millions will watch as thousands of runners, some elite, some first-timers, push themselves along the famous 26.2-mile route. Runners have not only picked themselves up, and dusted themselves off following the tragic events of last year — they have rallied in spirit.
“Certainly after the bombings last year, we all felt vulnerable, not only as citizens, but as runners,” said Brian Metzler, editor-in-chief of Competitor Magazine. “The act of running road races has been an expression of freedom. That’s still the case, but last year opened a lot of eyes.”
The results aren’t all bad, according to Metzler, who points to the massive outpouring of participation this year. More than 35,660 official participants are expected to tackle today’s race.
"There was much more interest in qualifying for Boston over the past year,” said Metzler. "Even the half-marathon numbers were up; running has continued to soar. It would be much worse if the numbers went down.”
The immense starting field size, which is the largest since the 1996 centennial marathon, begs questions of whether runners today will be hindered by cramped roads and crowds.
"Because the BAA has been through this before with the centennial, they know what it takes to pull off a big race. Certainly it is going to be a bigger organizational endeavor, but as far as runners go, I don’t think they'll feel too much of an impact," Metzler said.
In the opinion of Sports Museum Curator Richard Johnson, last year's bombing has changed the race "not a bit."
"I think it’s the world that has changed, not the race. The Boston Marathon is the event of the year here. What happened last year makes the Marathon all the more important as a refuge, a symbol of all that’s good about sports and community,” said Johnson.
“I don’t think the world is ever going to go back to normal – not only after the events of a year ago, but of 9/11. It is part of the larger world – the larger world intruded upon the sanctity of the Boston Marathon. I think it will now be even more precious to us, as will any communal event," he said.