ShareThis Page

Boston bombings can't crush freedom of running for Pittsburgh Marathon participants

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

It's easy to be afraid.

When you think about the bloody streets, the amputated legs, and the innocent people killed and maimed at the Boston Marathon this week, the immediate reaction is to retreat and hide, agonize in fear and obsess about the what-ifs.

Not runners. Not the ones in Boston. And certainly not those who will hit the streets at the Pittsburgh Marathon in two weeks. To them, running equals freedom. To them, running is a celebration of the human spirit, a testament that if you put your mind to something, your body will follow through.

For those who've run through Pittsburgh's neighborhoods on marathon day — myself included — and those who've trained over the past months to do it for the first time, there's no terror attack in the world that will crush the motivation and hunger to run.

“I'm more motivated than ever,” Becky Willis, 30, of Tarentum, a first-time marathon runner, told me. “This event has brought us closer together. Why give up because of what someone else did?”

Willis is running in memory of her best friend, Wendy Kovach, who died of Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, about 15 years ago.

She also wants to raise money for Genre's Kids with Cancer Fund, a foundation started by the family of a North Huntingdon boy who battled leukemia.

“There's no reason to give up,” said Willis, who works in the information technology department at Giant Eagle's corporate offices.

No, there isn't. If we give up, we abandon not just the ability to fulfill a personal goal, but the freedom to do so openly in the streets of our neighborhoods. We abandon the thrill of being cheered by complete strangers who give runners cookies, chips and even beer. We pretty much abandon our right to be citizens of the world.

The marathon isn't just about the runners. Organizers are expecting more than 50,000 spectators.

Every runner will tell you how meaningful it is to see them lining the streets. I remember a group of grade-school students dancing on the North Side last year, cheering with big smiles as I ran by. It was clear this event isn't just about running.

“They want to take away the freedom where you pursue your life in a free, happy way,” said Kate Bielak of Harrison, who runs with a veterans group called Team Red White and Blue. “How can we let that happen?”

Team Red White and Blue is encouraging members who are running in Pittsburgh to carry American flags.

Mike Weaver, an Army veteran from Indiana, will carry a 3-foot-by-5-foot flag donated by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh County. Weaver, 41, has been training with a PVC pipe to get used to the flag's weight.

Such perseverance only goes so far, though, and understandably so.

Willis told me that she won't bring her two children, Arianna, 4, and Evan, 2, to the finish line.

“It's sad because they've been watching me as I train,” she said. “But it's a safer option that works for me.”

Though the Boston Marathon bombings occurred hundreds of miles away, we felt them here nonetheless. Come May 5, it will be our turn to show that we stand right alongside our New England neighbors.

Pittsburgh comes alive during big sporting events. It shouldn't be any different this time around.

Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412 -320-7998 or lfabregas@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.