Reporter’s Notebook: A Marathon Now Tinged With Tragedy

For years, Alex Ashlock has covered the Boston Marathon for WBUR. He was along the course Monday, but instead of covering the post-race story — typically one of celebration – he ended up reporting on a crime scene. Here, Ashlock shares his personal perspective on what happened.

Police clear the area at the finish line Monday as medical workers help the injured. (Charles Krupa/AP)

Police clear the area at the finish line Monday as medical workers help the injured. (Charles Krupa/AP)

BOSTON — So now the marathon that I love is tinged with tragedy, just like the marathon that inspired me to be a runner.

The Boston Marathon was attacked just like the Olympics were in Munich in 1972, when Palestinian terrorists killed 11 Israeli athletes. I can still remember Jim McKay on ABC saying, “They’re all gone.”

Now there are people gone again, people who were here in Boston for an event that is always a joyous celebration for thousands of runners and maybe a million fans who line the 26-mile course.

One of my favorite things to do when I cover the marathon, which I have been doing for 15 years, is go out among the sea of runners just after they cross the finish line. I did that Monday and woman from Louisville told me it was awesome: the support was amazing in every city, it was great day.

A great day. I left, and an hour later there were explosions out over that finish line. I keep thinking about the cruelty — runners maybe with their legs blown off.

In 1972, the attack on the Israeli athletes played out over two days, Sept. 5 and 6. The games were halted for a time but resumed. And just a few days later — on Sept. 10 — 69 men toed the starting line for the Olympic marathon, the last event of the games.

A few years ago, I spoke to one of those runners, a man named Kenny Moore. He talked about the debate over whether the U.S. team should even stay in Munich. In the end, they did and Moore said the words of Frank Shorter, his roommate, were the most eloquent during that debate.

He told me Shorter, who would go on to win that Olympic marathon, said this: We have to spread the word by performance, that barbarism only makes Olympians stronger. We have to say this as scared as I get, let’s go run.

Let’s go run. That’s what I’m going to do this morning, because I still can.

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  • http://twitter.com/ADaveSaysWhat ADaveSaysWhat

    Thanks Alex. Your words (and Frank’s words) helped me a bit this morning. We’ll run. They didn’t stop us. They can’t stop us. We’ll continue to give 8-year-olds a reason to cheer and feel good about their parents. We’ll continue to raise millions of dollars for charity and inspire our friends and families to get off the couch. We’ll continue to make new friendships and have therapy sessions at 8 minutes/mile so we’re able to help others in times like these.

  • ScienceMom


    As a reporter I’m sure you wonder some days if your words make a difference. They do. As I read the conclusion of your piece, with tears on my face from an hour spent reading the updates, I felt you were speaking directly to me – a middle-aged, 15 pounds too heavy, off-and-on runner who always dreamed of running in the Boston Marathon. I knew what I had to do. So for the first time in maybe six months, I laced up my running shoes and I ran.

    I ran because I still can. I ran for all those who no longer can and for all those suffering unimaginable loss. I ran for all those who saw things no one should ever have to see. I ran in Defiance, with a capital D, defiance of ignorance, defiance of barbarism, defiance of destruction. And I ran as a personal proclamation of the beauty of the spring morning and the strength and triumph of what is best in humankind. I will keep running, for all of that. Thank you.

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