Will the violence in Boston slow local runners down?

This week's tragedy in Boston is making local runners more determined than ever to continue hitting the pavement, writes Heather Barrett.

If I had been 14 minutes faster at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, I could have been crossing the finish line at the Boston Marathon at about the time those bombs went off on Monday.

Alas, a nagging injury slowed me down and I hit "the wall" at kilometre 35, dragging myself over the finish line at Toronto City Hall at just under four hours, not fast enough to qualify for an entry spot to the world's most famous road race.

Boston would have to wait.

I'm one of those runners you see in brightly coloured jackets and black tights, rain or shine, out on the streets and trails of St. John's.

Running is a growing sport across North America, including here in Newfoundland and Labrador. It's great exercise for the mind, body and soul. It's also convenient when you have lots of work and family commitments.

Our province has appallingly high rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. When I'm doing an early morning long run with my mostly middle-aged running buddies, out to the Fort Amherst lighthouse and back, sometimes it feels like it's a small miracle that we're out there.

It's no wonder that race events such as the Tely 10 in St. John's and big city marathons on the mainland have become both all-ages personal challenges and large-scale neighbourhood parties. 

Horrific events

So it was with horror that I watched the events in Boston on Monday on a newsroom monitor, hoping that the dozen or so runners from this province had not been hurt in the two bomb blasts that killed and hurt so many.

Again, on Friday, I watched the lockdown of Boston and its suburbs with a sick feeling in my stomach.

I am saddened by this week's deaths and injuries. I am also angry.

St. John's runner Colin Howse says the violence in Boston shouldn't stop people from running and taking part in large races. (CBC)

How dare those men ruin an activity that celebrates healthy living, community participation, and the simple, uncomplicated fun of getting out of the house and running around your neighbourhood. 

Their actions have also thrown shadows across future races. Will running events become the sporting equivalent of air travel, with a gauntlet of security to run before participants even get to the starting line?

Some local runners told me that once they got over the initial shock of the bombings,  and the relief of knowing our running buddies were unharmed, their next urge was to get out of the house and go for a run.

It's our way of saying, "Screw you, bombers. No one is going to suck the joy out of this for us."

We're still running

This weekend, runners are hitting roads and trails all over the province for their weekly long group runs.

The fastest runners, those who have already run the Boston Marathon, are wearing their blue-and-yellow Boston Marathon jackets in solidarity with the citizens and runners of Boston.

Many others are wearing something blue or yellow, perhaps a T-shirt, perhaps a ribbon. 

My running buddy Colin Howse, while speaking with CBC reporter Peter Cowan, summed it up the best earlier this week: "We can't let this [the bombing] deter us from what our ambitions are, and our attempts to make the world a better place."

This week, we're running for the right to be outdoors in our own communities, without fear. We're running for the right to have safe public gatherings.

This week, we're all running in Boston.  

About the Author

Heather Barrett


Heather Barrett is the host and producer of Weekend AM on CBC Radio One in Newfoundland and Labrador.