This is a suggestion for the organizers of the Boston Marathon.
Next year, let us all in.
Keep the qualification times, just add a second start, create a second wave. Invite America to run.
The Boston Marathon changed this year. In a flash of light and the thunder of an explosion, it changed. In the moments and days that followed, it became something to this country it hadn't been before.
For most of the country, the Boston Marathon meant nothing. People had heard of it, and knew it was a tradition, but that was it. For some others, for runners, it was the country's elite marathon. A race that you got into not because you could pay the entry fee, but because you had met a stringent qualification standard.
To run at Boston, you must finish a certified qualifying marathon before one of several age-based cutoffs. Basically, to get into Boston, you have to be a fast runner. It is a race of the best versus the best.
Boston is not a marathon for average runners, and it is certainly not a race for slow runners.
But maybe there should be a change. Maybe there should be a one-year exception.
Maybe in 2014 the Boston Marathon should be America's race.
Keep the elite runners, keep the qualifying times and the race for the good runners. But about a half an hour later, have another start. Let the thousands from across the country who'd like to send a message and take a stand run. Let anybody who can pay the entry fee line up and race. Let those who can run, run. Let those who can walk, walk. Let all be part, let all be heard, let this be America's marathon.
Maybe organizers could take the influx of entry money and put it toward the victims or public safety.
But next year, America needs to run that race. All of America. The slow as well as the fast.
It will be good for all involved. The runners will be part of something good. The city will be flooded with visitors and their money. The country will be bolstered by the show of friendship and support.
And Boston will become even more a part of the American heart.
And perhaps this attack by evil can be turned to good.
Twenty-six miles is a long ways, and only a tiny percentage of our population ever runs that many miles back to back. But almost anyone could, if they wanted to and prepared. A year is plenty enough time to prepare -- whether you want to run it or walk it. Perhaps families could set it as a goal to do Boston together next year. Maybe co-workers or groups of friends. Members of a police department or military unit or fire company.
But somehow, someway, next year’s marathon has to be a voice of America, a representation of us all, a steady streaming of humanity across that long course, declaring for all the world to see that this is who we are and this is how we live.
Right now, that can’t happen. Right now, the Boston Marathon is for the elite runners.
And that’s fine.
But not for next year.
Next year, the Boston Marathon has to be for America.
Open the registration. Let it be a parade. Let it be the full-throated roar of a people who won’t be intimidated by ideology of hate and attacks by cowards.
Next year, organizers would be doing their community and their country a favor if they let the Boston Marathon be the American marathon.