Past the finish line

I was just half way through my column of writing about one of our typical local issues when suddenly a diversion took place. Although there are some really pressing local issues I would like to discuss, it's more important at this time to talk about what we are facing on a daily basis. As we all know with fast moving news items we tend to focus on the here and now. Therefore I will talk about the here and now along with what most people are talking about. It was all across the news media on April 15 that we hear of two explosions rocking the packed streets near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Immediately my thought process switched from writing about our local stuff to yet again another tragic event. It's what most of us think about without mentioning the word when hearing of explosions occurring in densely populated areas. Today as with modern technology we are filled with various ways of presenting some of the bloodiest scenes and destruction of human lives. The sights and sounds of this tragic event are another reminder of the fear and threats we continue to face.

This particular day in Boston happened to be a special historical one. It was a ceremonial day which the people in New England refer to as "Patriot's Day." It's a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the first battles (Lexington and Concord) in the American Revolutionary War. People come out to celebrate with re-enactments of these battles along with tracing the morning ride of Paul Revere calling out warnings of the enemy coming. Since 1969 the holiday has been observed on the third Monday in April making it a three-day long weekend of celebration. It's also a day allowing residents of the state of Massachusetts until midnight of the following day to submit their federal tax returns.

Not only is the city of Boston filled with rich history but also a love for their sports. On Patriot's Day every year since 1959 the Boston Red Sox (my favorite baseball team) have traditionally played at home in Fenway Park. If you ever want to take a step back in time I'd suggest visiting this old ballpark just to imagine and appreciate its history. Since 1968 the games on Patriot's Day have started early in the morning around 11 a.m. so the game could end just as the marathon is heading through Kenmore Square. However, since 2007 the marathon has started between 9:30 and 10 a.m., which resulted in the runners going through Kenmore during the middle of the Red Sox game.

It's the marathon on Patriot's Day attracting more than 500,000 spectators each year that makes Boston a special place. It began in 1897 and originally was a local event but now attracts more than 20,000 participants from all over the world each year. The Boston Marathon is not your typical marathon. Instead it is the premier event for long-distance runners. It's sort of like the Super Bowl for professional runners. What really makes it unique is that amateurs have the opportunity to run with the professionals. However, in order to do so they must meet certain qualifying standards which have become more stringent. So if you know of someone ever running the Boston Marathon you'll know that dedication and hard training is what makes it possible. For many runners just to qualify for the Boston Marathon is a goal and achievement in itself.

The only exceptions for qualification times are for runners involved with charities, sponsors, vendors, licensees, consultants, municipal officials, local running clubs and marketers. It's a grueling race of a little over 26 miles long and with the famed "Heartbreak Hill" making it one of the most challenging road races on American soil. It's at this point of the race where a runner's muscles begin to fatigue and stored energy is depleted. Marathoners refer to this as "hitting the wall." For the entire distance of the race thousands of people line the streets of the course to cheer the runners on while providing water and snacks along the way. The crowds are even more encouraging for the amateur and first-time runners. Spectators are truly a part of this sport showing not only an appreciation toward the runners but also an understanding of how difficult it is to complete. One can only describe watching a runner's face while passing the finish line as in agony, fortitude and determination

The city of Boston is one of my favorite big cities to visit. I've always enjoyed taking in the various sights of a city filled with an abundance of history and American pride. But on April 15, 2013, without warning or ringing of the bells throughout the streets a random act of evil came down on the city of Boston causing death and destruction. People coming from all over the world with only thoughts of celebrating Patriot's Day suddenly changed to visions of devastation. Again our nation is put to the test while asking ourselves what's next, when and why. As various government agencies continue to sift through the rubble for answers American people wait, watch and listen. As with the face of a marathon runner, agony, fortitude and determination is what makes it past the finish line. The people of Boston will get through this and we will never forget.

Until next time -- hold that thought.

MIKE LAZAROU is an Amsterdam native and a regular columnist. You may contact him at