A Terrorist’s Impact on Endurance Events

Exactly seven days ago we were struck by a horrific terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon.  The deaths and injuries were horrific and full of gore, as we all know.  By week’s end the terrorists were dead or apprehended, bringing one chapter of the event to a close.  Certainly the story will have more and more chapters for those who were impacted directly or indirectly.  Bodies will heal.  People will cope with the stress and mental trauma.  Perhaps law enforcement will find out what motivated the attack.

In some regard, life will begin to return to normal.  (That could be a blog post in and of itself…whether or how we could return to normal after a horrific and tragic event like last Monday’s.)  Our sport, on the other hand, while physically the same – we’ll still swim, bike and run – likely will change in many ways both large and small.

Imagine the life of a race director now, post-Boston.  While I’m sure that RD’s already had a multitude of considerations at play, now they need to worry so many more things.  Among their concerns could be having to worry about having cameras on the course (or at least if buildings along the course have cameras).  Do they need to have hazmat teams available?  Should patrons and spectators in finish line areas be expected to go through security screening?  How do you contain an entire course (upwards of 140 miles) such that a would-be terrorist can’t harm an athlete?  Can you even contain a full course?  Should RD’s employ undercover police officers to monitor race expos?  What degree of background checking of volunteers should the race organization do?  How can they guard against food-borne terrorism? 

Any person with even scant imagination could dream up untold scenarios where athletes in endurance events could be at risk.  Frankly, all the potential concerns are a little overwhelming to me.  I’m glad that is not my day-job.  Truth be told, I’m even more appreciative of the hard work that race directors and race companies do now that I’m beginning to think about all of this stuff.

Here’s my perspective.  I really hope that endurance events don’t change.  Certainly RD’s and race companies owe us a duty to make sure that we’re safe…and that hasn’t changed just because of Boston.  I hope that just because of last week that race experiences don’t pale.  I hope that Rev3 continues to have a great finish line experience.  I hope thousands of spectators line up along marathon routes.  I hope people continue to flock to places like New York, London, Kona, Los Angeles, Cedar Point and Boston so that they can compete in big marquis events.  I also hope that athletes and spectators alike continue to go to races in Greensboro, Boise, Fort Wayne, Knoxville or Jacksonville. 

Surely there are some things that will change as a result of Boston.  Perhaps there will be tightened security.  Maybe there will be bomb-sniffing dogs or more surveillance cameras.  There could even be armed competitors (think air marshalls in aero :-)).  Lord knows, registration costs could go up.  But so what?  You and I – we’ll continue to do events.  We will keep running.  Biking.  Going to triathlons.  Marathons.  And if we’re lucky, more and more people will also.  In fact, I predict that demand for the 2014 Boston marathon will be higher than ever.  Perhaps all marathons will be like that.

People will be concerned about safety, but at the end of the day we will not allow ourselves to become paralyzed in fear.  We will run for those hurt or killed in Boston.  We’ll continue to have completing an iron-distance race on our bucket list.  New athletes will do their “couch to 5k” plans. 

And that is a GREAT thing!