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Good Things That Came Out of Boston

While the events of the past week aren't anything to ever forget, it's time to start looking ahead.

While the events of the past two weeks aren’t anything to ever forget, it’s time to start looking ahead. 

A week after the horrible events that struck the 2013 Boston Marathon, it’s time to start looking ahead. While remembering and never forgetting what happened, here are some of the good things that came out of the Boston Marathon weekend that we can take forward through the rest of the year and beyond.

That, as bad as it was, fortunately it wasn’t worse.

It’s absolutely horrible that three people died and more than 175 were injured (plus the MIT police officer who was killed after coming in contact with the bombing suspects) at this year’s Boston Marathon. It’s completely ridiculous to think that dozens of people had to have emergency amputation surgeries after watching the finish of the marathon. It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in a running race and our hearts, prayers and donations should always be with them. But, at the same time, it could have been a lot worse. Any casualty is bad, but 20 or 50 fatalities would have been entirely worse. Condolences to the families who are grieving and Godspeed to the survivors now and forever.

There is great solidarity of the entire running world.

If there is any silver lining out of the dark cloud that has hung over Boston since last Monday it’s that the entire running world (not to mention much of the rest of the world) has been unified in talking about how strong and resilient we can all be if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Running and the spirit of the running community can be very powerful. On an individual basis, it can be life-changing, life-affirming and perpetually inspiring, no matter if you’re a first-time runner or a great champion. Collectively, we can move mountains, force change, help others in need and connect with people on both a grassroots and global scale. Participating in memorial runs, sharing inspirational stories, helping raise money for individual victims, wearing race T-shirts in solidarity and supporting Boston and the Boston Marathon are just a few of the ways runners have shown their true colors in the past week.

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It made us realize how important running really is to each of us.

As runners, we don’t need to be reminded that we love running. But the fervor that has emanated from last Monday’s tragedy will certainly go a long way in letting the healing begin, both individually and collectively. Running is one of the simplest things humans can do. In an instant, it can put anyone on a path to improved physical, mental and spiritual well-being. We can also go to the gym, do yoga, ride a bike, go for a hike or swim for exercise, but nothing has a higher positivity quotient or provides greater immediate feedback than running. That’s just one of the reasons running is so weaved into the fabric of each of our lives. As someone once told me, no matter what challenges you face, there’s almost nothing that one simple run can’t help improve. The past week has been good proof of that.

The energy in Boston was electric.

OK, the pre-race energy is always electric in Boston, but this year more than ever it seemed there was a palpable buzz. Combined with pre-race events celebrating 40 years of the Greater Boston Track Club, the new statue honoring Dick and Rick Hoyt and Paul Revere’s historic Midnight Run, not to mention the excitement over the strong American women’s field and the cooler race-day weather, this year’s pre-race atmosphere seemed more enticing than ever. Because of its history, and because all runners either qualify or run in honor of a charitable cause, everyone in Boston seems to understand the privilege and honor of being there. That esprit de corps certainly played a big part of the immediate rally cry to galvanize in the face of the tragedy and then-unknown details of the crime.

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Marathons will become safer.

Not only will all race directors have to hold themselves to a higher standard, every single runner will become more vigilant and be on the lookout for things that don’t seem right and look out for fellow runners. We learned after 9/11 that we live in a different world than what most of us grew up in, but this event struck home in a much more personal way. Will races fees go up because of additional security measures, potential course changes and extra start and finish area infrastructure? It remains to be seen, but those things have been evolving since the 1970s and races have only become better, more well-organized and safer. However, it’s clear that we’re not going to stop running — much the opposite, actually — and because of that, the quality of running and racing will continue improve.

There is excitement behind American runners.

Led by fourth-place finishes from Jason Hartmann and Shalane Flanagan, the U.S. had a good showing in last week’s elite races. The “when will an American win Boston?” storyline is pretty tired at this point, but frankly it doesn’t matter. An American runner will win Boston when an American runner is capable of winning Boston and also runs a great race. With respect to Bill Rodgers, Joan Samuelson, Greg Meyer and other top Americans of the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, marathon running is much more competitive nowadays than it was when U.S. runners last stood atop the podium. In the meantime, fans of homegrown distance running should be happy that U.S. runners have been at least modestly competitive in the past decade and not continuing the trend between 1995-2004 when Americans rarely finished in the top-10 at Boston.

It put the NYC Marathon debacle in the rear-view mirror.

It’s interesting and important to note that two most prominent marathons in the U.S. were hit with different tragedies and that each came away with entirely different public perceptions. The comparison probably isn’t fair or even necessary, but the contrast is there nonetheless. No need to point fingers at New York and the unfortunate occurrences that happened before and after Superstorm Sandy, but it is important to commend the Boston Athletic Association, City of Boston and virtually everyone associated with last week’s marathon for acting with grace, composure and diligence in the face of an unexpected and unpredictable event. Hopefully, as a running community, we can all learn from each event.

Suddenly everybody wants to run Boston.

Yes, the 2014 Boston Marathon figures to be quite an event, both for those who were there this year and those who weren’t there but want to by involved next year. But therein lies a bit of a dilemma. It’s still the Boston Marathon and it is as hard as ever (or at least as hard as in recent years) to qualify. The qualifying standards were stricter this year. And, as many recent BQ’ers know, qualifying is only half the battle. Actually getting registered is the other challenge. With so many more people interested in running next year (and, presumably, contributing to charities), many have wondered if the B.A.A. will consider expanding its registration limit as it did during the 100th anniversary race in 1996. But the reason Boston is so cherished is because of its history and rigid standards, and that’s a good thing. Having the opportunity to run Boston means you earned it, and that will forever set it apart from any other marathon in the world.

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