Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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Location: Singapore

A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Blast

I have become rather blasé about disasters, crises and bad news.  And now, at work, where we deal with injuries, deaths, crashes, hostages, kidnaps, natural and man-made disasters, diseases, viruses and pandemics daily, hourly, 24/7, has made me very exhausted and tired, but still blasé.  In fact, as a true-blue marketer, these bad news make for great marketing opportunities for us, and send our adrenaline pumping, the way journalists would react when ‘’news’’ break.

This morning, it was different.  As I was scooping my breakfast cereal in the kitchen, my ears pricked up when I heard the words ‘’blasts at Boston Marathon’’ from my TV and I dashed to the living room to watch the news.  Tears welled up and my stomach churned.

I guess it’s because I run marathons.  And my anger swelled.  It dawned on me – I have been exposing myself to such terrorist acts.  A lot of preparations go into organizing a marathon.  Safety and medical facilities are usually emphasized.  You even have officials stationed at the start point to enforce rules and make sure only registered runners with the right bibs are allowed to enter the starting area.  But rarely do I see security folks.  Yet for a large scale event like a marathon, held in an open space, with as many as 70,000 runners, what security measures have been taken? 

And I am not just referring to those held in Singapore.  I run the Hong Kong race, and will be running the Gold Coast one in July, as well as the Siem Reap one in December.  These places are teeming with tourists and Americans – all targets for ‘’acts of terror’’.  This Thursday, my colleagues and I are running the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge.  Will there be a ‘’copy cat’’ blast at this event, which is sponsored by an American firm, and widely supported by expats in Singapore?

I am not just concerned about my own safety, but moved by the strength of marathoners.  Runners are amazing people, and I risk being labeled immodest by saying this here.  They know the virtues of discipline and perseverance, and they are brave.  And these virtues are amplified at the Boston Marathon.  After the Boston blasts, runners who have completed the race prior to the blast (read: exhausted) went back to help the injured.  Many who have trained hard and were nearing the dream of finishing well could not complete the race as they neared the carnage at the finishing line.  Nothing is as agonising as having trained hard and yet not being able to complete the race. 

Marathon supporters are amazing people too.  Their claps and cheers as they stand in the hot sun to cheer runners are a great source of encouragement.  Last December at my race, a Caucasian lady had a tub of chilled Coke by her side as she handed out cans of the drink to thirsty runners.  I smiled and declined.  She was obviously not a runner – Coke and gassy drinks make you burp, hence impeding your breathing and ultimately your running speed. But I was touched by her good intentions and her effort. 

As I read all the coverage about the marathon, I came across this article which sums up my sentiments so well, that I wanted to share it here. 

Read in particular these bits:
Marathon running has a long tradition of celebrating, commemorating, and affirming life. The original Olympic marathon in 1896 was to commemorate the man who carried the news of a victory for freedom. The first Boston Marathon a year later followed that idea by honoring the ride of Paul Revere, not on his actual route, but always on his day, Patriots Day in the State of Massachusetts (that's why it's on Monday). The Kosice Marathon in Slovakia and the Comrades Marathon in South Africa were created to commemorate the dead in World War 1. The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon affirms life after the bombings in that city in 1995. This very Boston Marathon mourned and honored the school kids who were gunned down a few months ago in Newtown, Connecticut, not far from here. Out of respect for them, the race was started for the first time in 117 years not with a gun but with an air horn.
Even without that special purpose, marathon running is a sport of goodwill. It's the only sport in the world where if a competitor falls, the others around will pick him or her up. It's the only sport in the world open to absolutely everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or any other division you can think of. It's the only occasion when thousands of people assemble, often in a major city, for a reason that is totally peaceful, healthy and well-meaning. It's the only sport in the world where no one ever boos anybody.
If you're losing your faith in human nature, look at marathon crowds, standing for hours with no seating, no cover, no bathrooms, to cheer thousands of strangers.

* Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent that of any organisation I work for.


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