In 2002, I published a novel, Heartbreak Hill, that projected the impact of a terrorist event occurring at the Boston Marathon. My book was based on the agonies and concerns I experienced six years earlier during the one hundredth running of the race.
In 1996, I ran the 100th Boston Marathon (my 15th Boston and 38th marathon), four-plus hours of running, all the time expecting a bomb (or bombs) might be detonated. The world was, as it is now, a tumultuous mess. And Boston then, as now, provided the largest single day spectator event in any country, 2.5 million spectators lining the course, from Hopkinton to Boston, men, women and children let out of school for the Patriot's Day holiday.
How easy, I thought, for any terrorist. An exceedingly soft target, as the experts say.
Thankfully, nothing happened that day 17 years ago, though I ran myself well clear of the finish line before stopping. And in all the years since, the Marathon, my Marathon, remained blessedly immune. And I forgot about my little tale, ascribed it all to my overly stimulated fantasies.
Until Monday, when the Boston Marathon finish line in Copley Square was engulfed in chaos.
All my worries, all my words came rushing back. And with them came the horrible thought that maybe I'd somehow caused this to happen. An eight-year-old boy dies watching family friends cross the finish line. A 29-year-old woman dies watching the same race she'd been coming to see for most of her life. A foreign graduate student enjoying a rare break from her studies loses her life.
It was all just as I'd predicted.
In 2002, I tore my knee so badly that I had to choose between surgery and giving up my career as a runner. After more than 40 marathons, I decided to choose the latter and haven't set foot on the Marathon starting line since.
But after the events of Monday, I find myself thinking that, should the race be renamed in honor of Martin Richard, the sweet little eight year old who died on Monday after hugging his dad at the finish line, I just might try the surgery and head out to Hopkinton in 2014.
After all, Patriots Day in Boston celebrates more than a 26-mile footrace. In 1775, the common citizens of Lexington and Concord stood up to the might of the British.
Many died. But the result yielded a quantum leap in the progress of our civilization.