The 2014 Boston Marathon: This Is the United States

2014 was an epic comeback year for the historic Boston Marathon.

Apr 22, 2014 at 2:14PM

To support the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, you can contribute to the One Fund Boston.

The Boston Marathon finish line.

On April 15 of 2013, two improvised bombs ripped through the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The bombs killed three and injured hundreds of others.

Fast forward one year and for Bostonites and hundreds of thousands of runners and fans, the theme of the 2014 Boston Marathon was "taking back the finish line." Boston did exactly that, and in the process reminded me what the United States of America is all about.

I ran the 2013 Boston Marathon and had the nerve-wracking experience of having to track down my mother after the bombs went off. She was also running the race and was a mile from the finish line when hell broke loose. We, along with my fellow Fool Seth Jayson, were all amazingly fortunate to be unharmed.

We all came back for the 2014 Boston Marathon. We couldn't not come back.

In 2014 we saw first hand the resilience of the Boston community. We saw the resilience of the worldwide running community. And we saw the resilience of the entire U.S. as runners and spectators flocked from all over the country to take part in what was truly an historic event.

To be sure, there were echoes of 2013. Visible security measures -- from National Guard presence to bomb-sniffing dogs at nearly every corner -- were vastly increased, and undercover police were everywhere. Spectators were distanced a bit more from the runners and items like backpacks were prohibited for both runners and fans.

But the security only served to encourage even more to participate in the event as an incredible 36,000 runners took part in the race and hundreds of thousands of fans packed the sidewalks from Hopkinton to Boston.

And in an almost unbelievable turn, U.S. runner Meb Keflezighi won the race -- the first time an American has won since 1983. Keflezighi, who's 38 years old, was almost completely overlooked as a real contender.

In the late hours of April 21...
As race volunteers were busy on Boylston street breaking down the area around the finish line, I couldn't help but reflect on everything that had happened -- both in 2013 and 2014.

Perhaps the most heart-breaking aspect of the 2013 attack was the fact that most of those that were killed and injured were not runners, but spectators. They were there to cheer on friends, family, and thousands of strangers that'd pass by on the way to the finish line. They weren't there for a medal. They weren't angling for a "personal best." They were there simply to lend their energy and support to others.

And it's been those spectators, year after year, that have made the Boston Marathon such a special race. From the early miles in Hopkinton, to the "scream tunnel" in Wellesley, the hills of Newton, and the final stretch in Boston, those selfless fans give more than they know to the runners that pass them.

That made the epic spectator turnout in 2014 so awe inspiring.

And as I think about those spectators, I know that while the exceptional security that Boston provided must've been comforting, being out there one year after the bombing wasn't without risk. But when it comes to what is important to us as Americans, we're not a risk-avoiding people.

No, we're a country that tries our best to figure out what's right and then go after making that a reality.

Maybe this passionate approach doesn't always look pretty in the process. And we've definitely made plenty of mistakes along the way. But it's a passion and a drive that's taken disparate peoples from all over the world and built a country with freedoms, advances, and an economic engine that's essentially unparalleled the world over.

The 2014 Boston Marathon was many things. This was an epic win for an American runner, many thousands of personal triumphs, and a fist-pumping redemption for one of the country's greatest cities.

But the 2014 Boston Marathon was also a chance to see what we as a country still are and still can be. We hear so much about the sluggish U.S. economy, the polarities of U.S. politics, and the many ways that we're supposedly falling short. But Boston showed that the country can still put differences aside, pull together, and root each other on to greatness.

I was honored to be part of the 2014 Boston Marathon and it made me remember just how fortunate I am to be a citizen of this country.

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