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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Reporter's Notebook: A Marathon Now Tinged With Tragedy

An unidentified Boston Marathon runner leaves the course crying near Copley Square following an explosion in Boston Monday, April 15, 2013. (Winslow Townson/AP)

An unidentified Boston Marathon runner leaves the course crying near Copley Square following an explosion in Boston Monday, April 15, 2013. (Winslow Townson/AP)

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.

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.

Here & Now's Alex Ashlock is pictured interviewing a runner after the 2012 Boston Marathon. He's been covering the race for 15 years.

Here & Now’s Alex Ashlock is pictured interviewing a runner after the 2012 Boston Marathon. He’s been covering the race for 15 years. (Click to enlarge)

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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  • Hey Ralph

    I don’t really get the comparison to Munich ’72 when the obvious parallel would be Atlanta ’96…

  • A Runner-Listener

    Beautiful story, thank you so much. I cried in my car – but I needed it.  And I’m going to shoe up and go for a run. And cry again.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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