The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


May 3, 2013

George Hancock | Boston Marathon memories and looking for answers

— As someone who has run in the world-renowned Boston Marathon, the spectacle and the beautiful city in which it is held have special meaning to me.

Certainly, the tragic events that marred last month’s runmning have garnered intense interest from me.

The Boston Marathon has a rich, storied history. The first race was held April 19, 1897, and won by New York’s John J. McDermott. McDermott crossed the finish line in 2:55:10. About 18 marathon runners toured that initial 24.5-mile-long course.

John Graham, who was instrumental in creating the Boston Marathon, is one of those personalities lost in history’s murky mist. He was the U.S. team manager for the 1896 Olympic Games. He was also a member of the Boston Athletic Association.

Graham was so intrigued by the 1896 Olympics marathon that he brought the concept to Boston. The rest is running history.

The Boston Marathon was held for decades on April 19, which was celebrated as Patriot’s Day, a popular regional holiday.

Patriot’s Day and the marathon both were moved in 1969 to the third Monday in April.

The spectators along the now 26.2-mile-long course from Hopkinton to Boston number in the millions. This year’s race attracted 26,839 entries. The 1984 edition, in which I participated, offered a contrast.

That year, my brother-in-law, Bob Patas, and I drove to Boston. Dave Gray, from Johnstown, also was in the ’84  field, which numbered slightly more that 5,200 runners. Entry qualifications then were very stringent.

Dave finished in an impressive 2:46:25. My brother-in-law came in at 2:51:45, and I finished in 2:58:55, despite the chilly, damp weather.

Bob and I never saw Dave in Boston. The finish-line crowd was huge. Spectators stood rows deep watching as runners crossed. As we neared the end, race officials and the police were very visible, as they were this year when the shocking and tragic bombing events unfolded. 

 So why would someone detonate bombs at the Boston Marathon?

Disturbed individuals seek attention. Today, the 24/7 news media provide the perfect showcase for numerous nefarious agendas. Two determined bombers became instant celebrities with their heinous acts. Unfortunately, we may never know why the Tsarnaev brothers chose to unleash their exploding terror at the marathon. We can only speculate on the reasons.

The marathon is the most-viewed New England sporting event. This is probably the main reason. It is 117 years old and has a spectacular history containing numerous story lines.

With the race occurring every year on a holiday, many people have the day off work and school and huge throngs are assured.

Someone bent on causing senseless deaths and injuries could plant explosive devices in numerous locations along the lengthy course.

But the question remains: Why? Why would anyone detonate bombs amid innocent bystanders? What motivates people to do these terrible acts?

Experts feverishly are studying these deadly episodes while seeking plausible answers – answers we need in order to hopefully correct these problems.

Our nation is diverse. It is a melting pot of numerous cultures. Immigrants for generations have come in search of peace, prosperity or personal freedom. The United States offered them a better life.

However, some, like the Tsarnaev brothers, struggle to accept, embrace or assimilate into our American culture.

Resentment festers. Hate under the guise of some religious belief simmers until that individual erupts in a mean- spirited way.

We must end that nonsense. Too many innocent bystanders are killed or maimed during these violent episodes.

Our national leaders have failed us. Washington reeks with partisan politics. Compromises and working together are futile exercises. Politicians have their own, narrow agendas. Our government needs civic-minded, responsible leaders.

The days after the Boston bombings were enlightening. Local, state and federal agencies worked together to  apprehend the bombing culprits.

Various law-enforcement agencies quickly discovered they could work together for the common good. The end result was the killing and capture of the suspects.

Locals cheered with gratitude as first responders cleared the final capture scene. This heartwarming atmosphere was reminiscent of the applause offered the Boston Marathon runners mere days before.

Fear and angst cripple the American dream.

But once again we have learned that coming together works. 


George A. Hancock of Scalp Level Borough is an occasional contributor to the editorial page.  


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