Monday, April 17th 2017, marked Patriot’s Day in Boston, a day when we celebrate the beginnings of the war that led to our independence as a nation, and also the day we hold one of the most recognized sporting events in the world, The Boston Marathon. The marathon, as an event, takes on many shapes and colors and was made even more compelling by the tragedy of April 15, 2013.
The marathon is often regarded as a sporting event, when in fact, it is a social experiment of the largest magnitude, bringing 30,000 runners and millions of spectators along the race route into a symphony of sights, sounds, and in most years celebration.
In 2013, the Marathon Bombing was an event unlike many others, in that the tragedy was so gut wrenching and so personal to all of us in the area, that what rose from the pain and suffering was a better and bigger city, community, and event. The marathon now signifies, every year, our human ability to rise from bitter heartbreak to unite and people, no matter what their race, religion, cause, or motivation, to band together, not unlike the patriots of the revolution, on this day, to pursue a common goal, “to finish”.
During the running of the race there are examples of extreme courage, such as a runner on artificial limbs, an elderly man trying to keep his “Boston” streak alive, cancer survivors, or a mother several months pregnant running for the cause she is committed to, whether that is childhood cancer, ALS, or feeding children. Everyone seems to have a mission, some special reason they are participating, yet once the race begins they are as one running down the hills of Hopkinton and up the torturous hills of Newton. There is reinforcement within teams, between friends, and with complete strangers, whose bonds increase with every step and become more critical with every mile.
The crowd’s cheers along the route are tantamount to a tide that pushes the running mass forward toward the finish, becoming more like a carnival as well as a celebration. As the race gets closer to the end, the drama increases and individuals begin to struggle, fighting exhaustion, and the possible collapse of their will. Often you see someone, man or woman, black or white, young or more seasoned, reach out and pull the other up, providing words of encouragement and suddenly they become partners in this quest to the finish. A particularly poignant moment occurred this year when a man with a prosthetic leg picked up his guide who had been with him for nine hours on the course and carried her over the finish line.
This is what our patriots fought for and what we as a people stand for, the willingness to engage with people of all races, religions, and ages with a common goal and yet different paths, purposes and perspectives.
The example set by these players in a 26.2-mile drama should be a lesson to us all, that we can find common purpose and if we allow ourselves to trust that outstretched hand, together we can accomplish whatever we chose.
This blog post was written by John C. Hennessy, COO of Whitridge Associates
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