Boston bombings: A marathon commitment to run

The shock and denial that followed Monday's Boston Marathon bombings has permeated not only the eastern American city, but spread across the Atlantic to the London Marathon's administrative hub. There are fears that some athletes may run scared following the Boston bombing and withdraw from this weekend's event.

But not South African wheelchair racer Ernst van Dyk, who remains in situ. A veteran like him does not give in to terrorists.

And he is surrounded by others who will compete in the London Marathon in spite of security fears, he told the Mail & Guardian from his hotel room in the British capital earlier this week.

"We went to the race headquarters on Wednesday," he said. "Athletes were coming in and out. No one is really talking about Boston. I think it is the shock. I scanned through the TV channels here and there is nothing on but Margaret Thatcher's funeral."

London had not beefed up security quite like Boston had, Van Dyk said. He did not know of any runners from Boston who had cancelled their plans to run in London.

Was there a moment this week when Van Dyk considered dropping out of the London Marathon?

"There was never a doubt in my mind. I mean, even considering [doing] that would be giving in to the cowards that did this. They want people's lives to be disrupted. They want us to feel terror. No, I won't give them the satisfaction."

Van Dyk was filled with disbelief after the first bomb went off. The feeling remains. "I kept thinking, did I really witness a bomb going off?"

Best feeling in the world
South African financial journalist and Boston Marathon runner Stuart Theobald was still in Boston when the M&G spoke to him on Wednesday. He was standing on the Boston Common and could see the finish line from where he stood. That is where the bombs went off.

"Crossing it was the best feeling in the world," he said on his cellphone. "It is quite moving to look at it now. I was running underneath that finish line a little while ago. Now it is a scene of devastation. "

It was a beautiful day in Boston, he said. He does not fear for his safety. Boston is probably the safest place in the world this week, what with the military, police and FBI agents stationed at every hotel. Sniffer dogs trawl the area. An American flag flies at half-mast nearby.

Theobald remembers seeing blood everywhere. Just hours before, there was not a citizen in Boston who was not involved in the event in some way. "Its an amazing atmosphere. Everyone kind of gets into it: volunteers, spectators," Theobald said. And then two bombs exploded.

A marathon was a celebration, Van Dyk said, and only a few participants were professional runners.

"The rest come in their thousands to prove to themselves that they can overcome adversity."

Running is perhaps the only sport in which someone will help you up if you fall down on the track. "To support someone next to you is what it's all about. People stand together in situations like this," Van Dyk said.

Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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