On Tuesday, we brought you the story of an unfortunate underside of running resulting from those who dishonor the sport and their fellow runners by cheating. In highlighting this, we encouraged all Casual Runners to always honor the sport by the way the run. What we did not know was, at the time that piece was being published on our website, a real life story of determination and honor was taking place on the streets of Boston.
On Monday April 20, 2014, amidst cold and rainy conditions, 27,165 runners toed the line at the Boston Marathon. Over the next several hours, 98% of those starters – 26,609 runners – would overcome the amazing physical challenges of the marathon to cross the famous Boylston Street finish line to forever be known as Boston Marathon Finishers. Plenty of coverage was given to those 26,609 finishers, and especially the respective champions and elite athletes, but what many of us did not know was that the race was not over, for there was one extremely determined runner for whom quitting was not an option.
Most of the world had never even heard of Maickel Melamed, a 39 year old from Venezuela. Melamed suffers from a rare muscular condition that makes it difficult just to walk. Despite this, Melamed previously completed marathons in Chicago, Berlin, New York, and Tokyo. He determined that Boston would be his fifth. So, like his 27,164 fellow runners, he toed the line in Hopkinton, Massachusetts with one goal in mind: to become a Boston Marathon finisher.
Thus, long after race officials crowned the winners of the respective events and divisions, and long after race officials and vendors started packing up, Melamed kept persevering on, slowly progressing towards Boylston Street. He would not give up, he would not be defeated. So, while many of us went to bed Monday night, Melamed pressed on. While we slept and then woke on Tuesday morning, Melamed pressed on. For 20 hours he pressed on, endured and overcame. Melamed finally arrived at Boylston Street, where, in the early morning hours on Tuesday, he became the 26,610th, and final, finisher of the 2015 Boston Marathon. What Melamed did not know was that his humble efforts would captivate and inspire the world.
Whether it be sports, or politics, or business, today we often are so focused on the victors that we overlook the many inspirational stories that can be gleamed from the tireless efforts from those who will never know the taste of victory. Although they may never finish first, they are determined to do what it takes to finish first. Although they may not necessarily finish with honors, they will certainly finish with honor.
And so is the mantra of the Casual Runner. As we have said many times before, most Casual Runners toe the line at race events with absolutely no thoughts of winning their age groups, let alone the race itself. So they define victory and accomplishment in different ways. To Casual Runners, victory is living a better life, it is being active, it is overcoming personal challenges that they set for themselves. Whether it be achieving a new distance, a different interval or pace while employing the run-walk method, or setting a PR , Casual Runners appreciate that we all have our own achievements and reasons to celebrate. By understanding this, we know that we can all find our motivation in different ways, but that we can do so by honoring ourselves and the sport of running.
Two years ago Boston was the site of a horrific terrorist event that left 3 dead and 264 others injured. In the aftermath, I encountered some personal Unexpected Magic. Not long after that race, I found myself running my second ever half marathon. During this race, I was feeling pretty fatigued and was struggling a bit with the mental and physical challenges of the race. At the almost perfect moment, I saw a spectator holding a sign that read:
“Run when you can. Walk if you must. But FINISH for Boston.”
I know that these signs were popping up at races all over the world in the weeks following Boston, but in that moment, I felt as though that sign was meant just for me, and it helped motivate me to not give up and to finish.
Not long after his inspirational finish at the 2015 Boston Marathon, a reporter asked Maickel Melamed why he did it, why he endured such great physical and mental challenges when so many others would have simply given up. He simply responded that he “did it for Boston.” And so should we all.
Here are some stats for you from the 2015 Boston Marathon courtesy of the Boston Athletic Association.
Total Number of Runners to Start: 27,165
Total Number of Finishers: 26,610 (98.0%)
Wheelchair entrants: 53
Handcycle entrants: 29
US States and Territories Represented: 57
Countries of Residence Represented: 87
Countries of Citizenship Represented: 97
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