Less than a month after the Boston Marathon bombings, runners are anxious to know how the Boston Athletic Association will deal with the 5,752 participants who didn’t finish this year’s race. BAA officials and race director Dave McGillivray have been deluged with suggestions from the running community and they continue to weigh their options. The latest and perhaps most public suggestion appears on petition platform Change.org.
On the website, Ryan Polly of Williston, Vt., one of the marathoners unable to finish April 15, asks that the BAA grant the runners stopped on the course entry into the 2014 race. He makes it clear the petition is “not asking for a free spot,” but simply a guaranteed bib number, with the runners paying the requisite entry fee.
Polly, who was less than a mile from the Boylston Street finish line when the bombs went off, appreciates the fact that the BAA is giving him a finisher’s medal and estimated time, but he wants another chance at officially completing the race. And he believes others want the same chance.
“We respectfully ask that a Wave Four be created so that we may run with our brothers and sisters in solidarity and healing,” Polly writes in his petition. “We want to be able to finish what we started. We want to do it with one another. We want to be able to say that we completed the Boston Marathon.”
In response, BAA executive director Tom Grilk issued the following statement: “In the days after the marathon, the BAA received thousands of e-mails from runners in the race, and many from those who did not have the opportunity to cross the finish line.
“Many have offered suggestions on how to help those runners find closure. While each of the 5,700 runners who didn’t cross the finish line has his or her own opinion on how to attain the closure, the common thread is one of persistence.
“We have listened and read every e-mail and voice mail, and we have been touched. While it’s impossible to respond or reply to all of them, we’ve been in continuous communication with our runners, and in particular, those runners who did not cross the finish line on where we stand in the process.
“Planning a marathon takes a lot of teamwork, and planning a marathon in the wake of the events of April 15 takes even more teamwork, communication, and planning . . . We ask those runners for continued patience.”
With some calling for the BAA to make the 2014 Marathon the largest in the history of the event, it has many tough decisions ahead. If the BAA aims for a record-setting field, the eight cities and towns along the route would be hosting near 40,000 runners. Typically, the field is about 27,000, with roughly 20,000 achieving qualifying times to enter. The remaining participants usually gain entry through running clubs or by fund-raising.
Both Grilk and McGillivray have said that “everything is on the table” for 2014. And race planning will be even more difficult with new security protocols undoubtedly under consideration.
As of Thursday night, the Change.org petition had collected 21,554 signatures from runners who were unable to finish or people who are close to them. Many of the runners wrote that, as Grilk acknowledged, they want closure. They also want to remember the Boston Marathon as a positive, life-changing event, not a traumatic one.
“I was just about finished . . . I could taste my medal,” wrote Janine Forgione of Cary, N.C. “I think we as a group are put into a very difficult position to ask for closure. I waffle between the guilt for asking to run again and then being angry that I didn’t finish, and then the worst is that I feel, in light of what happened, I feel like I shouldn’t ask at all. That is a horrible place to be in.
“Someone had told me that is a part of post-traumatic. Makes sense. Our grit and determination will and should trump that evil that kept us from our dream.”
Shira Springer can be reached at email@example.com.