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The 118th Boston Marathon—and its 36,000 Heroes  

It was relief  … and a joy.

On Monday of this week, the 118th Boston Marathon, which went off without a hitch, was truly a celebration of courage, endurance, commitment, community, and life itself.

That’s remarkable, given last year’s tragedy, when two bombs exploded near the finish line on Boylston Street, resulting in three deaths. An additional 264 innocent bystanders suffered physical injuries—including lost limbs, blindness, or deafness. Countless others will carry emotional trauma with them for the rest of their lives.

Still, an estimated one million spectators cheered the more than 36,000 undaunted runners from around the world who eagerly took part; among them were some 5,000 who hadn’t been able to complete last year’s race having been stopped en route after the explosions.

Of this year’s field, most qualified by finishing a marathon in another city within a prescribed time, depending on their age—from the men’s 18-34 category, which is 3 hours, five minutes (3:05), to 80 and over, which is 4:55. For women, that’s 3:35 and 5:25, respectively.

That task is challenging for even the most dedicated.

But then, there were the thousands who ran for a variety of causes. Many volunteered to run for the One Fund, a major, ongoing fundraising effort for victims of the bombings; others ran on behalf of nearly 30 other charities and had lost a close friend or relative to breast cancer, leukemia, multiple sclerosis or some other disease.

And while all marathoners are courageous - some say crazy - for these less athletic, less experienced competitors, the 26.2 miles take a greater toll. And because they’re slower, the ordeal takes them even longer, with some finishing as late as 6:30 p.m., after seven hours.

Since 1997, I’ve lived near the infamous corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Hereford Streets, at Mile 25.7. While the runners have about a half-mile left to go, they must make two turns before they can see the finish line—and the end of their agony.

It’s a wonderful place to cheer them on, as most are completely depleted and struggling, as they slowly jog, walk, shuffle, tramp, or limp.

The encouragement helps them get through it, and they’re grateful.

This year, some seemed to be deconditioned. But it was clear that nothing was going to stop them.

These fearless souls reminded me of so many people that we see in IHRSA clubs. They may not be athletic. They may be deconditioned. They may have pounds to lose.

But they’ve come to your club because they’re inspired to reach a goal, no matter what it takes.

You may not know what’s happened in their lives. You may not know how much you’re doing for them. But once in a while, you’ll see a smile that says “thank you.”

When you do, there’s nothing like it. Like this year’s Boston Marathon, it’s something to celebrate.

- Patricia Amend is the executive editor of CBI; she can be reached at

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