David Whitney: A forever altered marathon


Published: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 at 5:43 p.m.

The Boston Marathon captured my heart from the first time I experienced it live, as a Boston University student, in 1980. It holds my heart still and has served as a metaphor for my life’s journey; without the Boston Marathon in my life, I cannot imagine being the person I am today.

Out of the 50 marathons I ran, I completed four Bostons. No. 1 was in 1996 in celebration of the marathon’s 100th year. No. 2 was in 2005 and coincided with my 25th marathon; it shone a small ray of light on an otherwise dark and turbulent year for me. (And how about this – I finished the 2005 race in 3:37.43 – not bad for a 45-year old, eh?!)

Number 3 was in 2008 and –- in true David Whitney fashion -– involved a twist: I ran the race from the finish line in Copley Square to the starting line in Hopkinton in an event I coined “NOTSOB” (Boston backwards). I will never forget starting the race -– only yards from where this year’s tragedy unfolded -– at 5 a.m. in a foggy, chilly, Copley Plaza. The scene then was surreal, yet serene, and the experience bonded me forever to the enchantment that is the Boston Marathon. It was at that very moment, even though my heart was already smitten from years past, that the Boston Marathon and I became inseparable.

Alas, this bonding did not make me faster. I slowed considerably from previous races and waddled along the NOTSOB course in 4:11.40. Must have been because I stopped along the way for pizza and beer –- clearly, a couple of times –- in running “backwards.” But the Boston Marathon is nothing, if not forgiving. So she called me back, and, then in the most glorious experience of all -– my 50th marathon on April 19, 2010 accompanied by my great friend, and running buddy, Sam -– I ran Boston to end my marathoning career.

For 30 years, the Boston Marathon held my heart and guided me down the road -– this thing called life -- to where I am today. And now, this tragedy has forever altered what the Boston Marathon means to me and to so many others captivated by its spectacle. I could never imagine that something so wonderful and important in my life could be a place of death and injury to so many innocents. Evil emerged and tried to forever erase the goodness found in loving people; cowardice came and tried to defeat courageous, selfless people. But evil and cowardice showed up in the wrong city and tussled with the wrong people. Because when it comes to Bostonians –- we’re all Bostonians now –- and Americans, we won’t succumb to terror and we will never relinquish freedom.

And my memories of you, Boston Marathon, will never fade. My resolve in you, Boston Marathon, will grow stronger than before. All of that will happen, for sure. Yet I mourn today –- and my heart is broken –- because of what happened at my Boston Marathon last week.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top