Mike Canan: Boston Marathon more than a race

BOSTON - Running the 2014 Boston Marathon wasn't in my plans.

The euphoria of the 2013 Boston Marathon was something I will never forget, but I had every intention -- even immediately after the 2013 race -- of skipping 2014.

At the time, I thought: I'll run again when I'm older or when my boys, ages 3 and 5 last year, are older and can better understand the significance of the Boston Marathon.

About 2 hours after I had finished the Boston Marathon two bombs erupted near the finish line -- near the spot that just a few hours earlier I had been overwhelmed with emotion at my personal triumph.

Still, even later in the day on April 15, 2013, running the 2014 Boston Marathon wasn't a strong consideration.
But something happened over the next few days.

My family's vacation to Boston had to be reworked. Instead, we drove north through Massachusetts to New Hampshire and Maine. I proudly wore my Boston Marathon shirt. And everywhere we went the support, the concern, the solidarity was evident.

Something clicked for me.

I've never been big on the idea of "if we don't (fill in the blank), the terrorists win."

But I realized the Boston Marathon means so much to so many. It's a part of Boston. Hundreds of thousands of spectators get up early on a holiday to come cheer on people they don't know. People from across the country knitted blue-and-yellow scarves to give out at the Blessing of the Runners Sunday morning at the Old South Church.

That's what the Boston Marathon is all about.

Within a few days of last year's race, I decided I needed to run the 2014 race.

So did thousands of others. The Boston Athletic Association, which puts on the marathon, expanded the field by 9,000 runners to 36,000.

Here in Boston those thousands of runners are connected in a different way this year.

Running is a sport of camaraderie and a feeling of "we're competing against each other, but we're all really just competing against ourselves, so we're all in this together."

This year that feeling that we are really a team is magnified a hundred fold. Like soldiers who have been through battle together, we are brothers and sisters.

I've talked to more random strangers in nearly two days in Boston than all of my other seven marathons combined. Runners are sharing their stories -- where they were last year, why they are running this year.

And I've heard a common theme over and over.

Running in 2014 has nothing to do with the terrorists. It has everything to do with the families of the victims, the 260 people who were injured last year, the supporters, fellow runners and a city that has become a symbol of strength and triumph over adversity.

This marathon is more than just a race. It's more than just trying to run a certain time or mark off a checklist.

I'm a competitive person. It's wired into my DNA. That's why I'm addicted to running, and now especially running marathons. I want to set goals and work as hard as I can to reach them. I want to be better, faster than I've ever been before. Faster than I've ever thought I could be.

I have a goal in mind for Monday's race. But unlike just about every other race I've ever run, my goal is secondary. Last year at Boston taught me something about the sport, about myself, about humanity.

We take too much for granted.

So this year, no matter how well (or poorly) I run I will be grateful I can run 26.2 miles. I will be grateful for an estimated 1 million spectators who will show up to cheer me and my fellow runners on. I will be grateful for all of those runners -- fast and slow -- who are undeterred. Who want to stand up and show their support.

Boston 2013 changed my perspective. So what if I miss my goal by 3 minutes or 20 minutes? It's not life or death. Ultimately, running is about having fun.

And this year at Boston it's about a little more than that.

I'm grateful I can return the favor for all of those who showed up last year to support me. I'm grateful I can show the injured and the families of those who were killed that I stand with you. We stand with you.

I never planned to run the Boston Marathon in 2014. But I'm glad I'm here.

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