On April 21, the 118th running of the Boston Marathon will show the world how strong Boston really is.

A whopping 36,000 contestants, a third more than last year, are anticipated to run. Lining the famous route from Hopkinton to downtown Boston, more than 1 million spectators are expected to cheer the racers, about double last year’s crowd.

Already one of the most famous road races in the world, the Boston Marathon became even more so after last year’s horrific bombings near the finish line that killed three spectators and injured 260 people. While shock and injury were on full view in the aftermath, so was bravery and determination by both those maimed and their rescuers.

None of us will forget that day when two brothers, Tamarlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, walked down Boylston Street, dropped off two backpacks about 210 yards apart in crowds of spectators, and then walked away. At about 2:50 p.m., the pressure-cooker bombs, filled with BBs and nails and black powder removed from fireworks, exploded within 12 seconds of each other as runners were making their way to the finish line. Killed were

Martin Richard, 8, of Boston; Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford, Mass.; and Lingzi Lu, a graduate student at Boston University, originally from China. In the aftermath of the bombings, when police moved quickly and with hefty resources to apprehend the perpetrators, another person, Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer Sean Collier, was gunned down by one of the brothers as they tried to escape. Their flight was short-lived. In a massive manhunt, police killed 26-year-old Tamarlan Tsarnaev in a hail of about 200 bullets and nabbed his younger brother – who is facing 30 federal charges, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty – hiding in a boat in a back yard in nearby Watertown.

A year later, there has been much reflection and analysis about how and why the bombers did what they did. While the pundits try to figure it out, ordinary Bostonians and well-wishers have proven “Boston Strong” is mightier than ever (made even sweeter with a World Series triumph).

On the one-year anniversary of the bombing, the Boston Marathon will have deeper meaning, as a metaphor for the war against terror. Running a marathon is no easy feat. An athlete must persevere through aches and pains, fatigue and self-doubt to make it to the finish. The struggle against terrorism is similar. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s painful, wearying and seemingly never-ending. On Patriot’s Day in Boston, runners’ and spectators’ determination not to be intimidated by last year’s act of terror is the highest honor that can be paid to the victims of the bombings.

Those who remember how they felt post-Sept. 11 probably felt the same way last April 15. Our initial reaction is one of defeat, fear and confusion about what would drive someone to kill in the name of religion. But Bostonians, and all Americans, don’t back down in the face of a threat. We get back up and keep running. The Tsarnaev terrorists may have won that day, but theirs was a temporary victory. The throngs in and along suburban Boston streets this Patriot’s Day will prove that point once again.

–John Balentine, managing editor


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