Reclaiming the finish line

The Passover and Easter messages of hope and renewal resound with the running of the 118th Boston Marathon today. With the race slogan, “We Run As One,” more than 36,000 runners are expected to “reclaim the finish line” after last year’s bombing, which killed three people and injured at least 264 others. The near-record number of participants want to pay tribute to the victims, and return this renowned race to its rightful place in the sporting world.

Last year’s champion, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, returned his first-place medal to the city in a ceremony last June. He gave his racing bib to a woman who lost her lower leg and her husband who was also seriously injured, the New York Times reported.

“Sport holds the power to unify and connect people all over the world,” Desisa said. “Sport should never be used as a battleground.”

Desisa is racing today, hoping for a win that can be celebrated, a win to succeed the one lost to last year’s unbearable sadness.

He and all the participants will run for those who no longer can because they were injured and maimed last year. They will also carry in their hearts and minds the memory of those killed: Krystle Campbell, 29, of Medford, Mass.; Martin Richard, 8, of Boston; and Lu Lingzi, 23, of Shenyang, China, a graduate student at Boston University. All were spectators, simply enjoying the event, cheering the runners.

Among the most heartbreaking images to come out after the bombings was the undated school photo of Martin Richard, holding a poster he made that says, “No more hurting people. Peace.” It is decorated with two hearts and a peace symbol. The image, and message, will endure always thanks to his family and a foundation named in Martin’s honor.

Denise and Bill Richard were both injured in the blast; their daughter Jane, then 7, lost her left leg. Their oldest son Henry did not suffer physical injuries. The family recently released a photo of a smiling Jane, standing on a new prosthetic leg.

The family established the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, CBS News reported, and selected 100 applicants to serve as runners, ambassadors and fundraisers for Team MR8, a name formed combining Martin’s initials with eight, his favorite number. Members of Team MR8, the family said, are running to remember those affected by the tragedy, and to participate in symbolically reclaiming the finish line. You don’t have to be a marathoner to want to honor the Richard family and other victims and survivors, to be grateful to them for sharing their strength, to practice Martin’s wish for peace.

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