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Commentary: Tsarnaev Sentencing Looms Over 2015 Boston Marathon03:16
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Runners coming over the Mass Pike at the 2014 Boston Marathon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Runners coming over the Mass Pike at the 2014 Boston Marathon. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
This article is more than 6 years old.

On Monday, it will be about competition, certainly. Since the first running of the Boston Marathon in 1897, it has been about competition.

Last year’s winner, Meb Keflezighi, is back, so perhaps an American will win for the second year in a row … and the second time since Greg Meyer finished first in 1983

The execution of a murderer cannot make whole a family that has lost a child or restore a victim’s shattered limb, but it would contribute to the further brutalization of a society where brutality and violence are already so apparent.

Bill Littlefield

Last year’s wheelchair division winners, Ernst van Dyk and Tatyana McFadden, are looking to repeat. Van Dyk will be looking for his 11th win. I wonder how many times you have to prevail before you get a gold laurel wreath?

The Boston Marathon is no longer about the so-called bandits. Following the explosions that killed three people and injured hundreds more during the 2013 race, race organizers and security officials have clamped down on the practice of running the race for the fun or the challenge or the hell of it without bothering to register.

Because of the explosions, last year’s race saw increased concern for the safety of the runners and spectators. Erica Steckler, who come from Vermont for the occasion, was fine with that because she couldn’t deny that she was thinking of the bombings:

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"It’s on our minds," she said. "I think it’s on everybody’s mind, I would imagine. But I feel safe. The police are here. The military’s here. I mean, I just, I feel OK."

Increased precautions this time around include a ban on drones, just in case somebody might think it would be a good idea to buzz the event via remote control aircraft.

[sidebar title="Running With Ghosts" width="630" align="right"]In an article for SB Nation, Matt Tullis writes about his motivation for running: the people he met while being treated in a children's cancer ward. Tullis shares his story with Bill Littlefield.[/sidebar]The Boston Marathon has been a celebration of effort, determination, camaraderie, community, and charity. That’s what it will be again on Monday.

But what hangs over this race is the fate of the man who has been convicted of 30 criminal counts connected to the bombing two years ago.

The sentencing phase of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s trial begins on Tuesday. He will be imprisoned for the rest of his life, or he will be executed. Though at least one of those injured two years ago has said he won’t lose any sleep if Tsarnaev is put to death and relatives of other victims have expressed support of the death penalty, Bill and Denise Richard feel otherwise. They lost their son, Martin, in one of the bomb blasts, and their daughter, Jane, was badly injured. In an opinion piece in Friday’s Boston Globe, they urged the Department of Justice to “take the death penalty off the table” in return for Tsarnaev’s agreement to forego an appeal.

The Richards write that they wish to spare the members of their family the ongoing drama of appeals that they feel would result from a death sentence. The want the story to end now.

I hope their wish is granted, and not only so that Bill and Denise Richards and their family may be spared more and more news coverage of the criminal who killed their child.

The execution of a murderer cannot make whole a family that has lost a child or restore a victim’s shattered limb, but it would contribute to the further brutalization of a society where brutality and violence are already so apparent.

May everybody involved in the race and everybody watching it manage to put that matter aside for a few hours on Monday. Then may our better and more merciful impulses prevail in the days to follow.

This segment aired on April 18, 2015.

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Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.

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