Boston Marathon Memorials Part XI: Dan Vassallo

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As we prepare for the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon tragedy, Level Renner is re-releasing the memorials and reflections of the running community written one year ago in the wake of the 117th running (these letters from readers were originally published in our May/June 2013 issue). Our intention is to pay proper respect and tribute to the events of last year’s race. We want nothing more than to handle the tragedy with appropriateness and tact. Because we see ourselves as an open platform for runners, this series is an expression of our audience’s thoughts from a year ago.  Thus, in the following pages, you will find an array of responses.  Some are angry, some are numb, most are just plain sad.  But some offer hope. Most show the strength and resolve of our community. The goal of this series is to remember and pay proper respect to the horrific events of April 15, 2013.  We will release one post per day in this series in the days leading up to the marathon.

Below is the eleventh installment of our twelve part series. Dan Vassallo a regional elite runner for the Central Mass Striders wrote this reflection.

I think it was Tom Derderian who once said that the Boston Marathon was a footrace designed in the spirit of the Olympics. It’s something that (at least theoretically) requires qualification and, if you’re doing it right, a little adversity.  Whether he’s the slowest guy on your college track team or whether he’s the high school soccer player that needed something more than the adult league, a marginal athlete can qualify for this race, and even the non-marginal athlete has been able to run as long as they make a significant contribution to mankind.   It has really become Everyman’s Olympic experience.

photo by EJN

I’m part of the generation of participants in this sport who grew up with the dueling 1998 Prefontaine movies, both of which are centered around the 1972 Olympics.  No matter what else happened in those Games, what will always be remembered is the horrible plot carried out by some sick people.  I’ve always been intrigued by the 10,000 meter race at those Olympics, the one with Lasse Viren falling down, coming back, and setting the Olympic record.  This race happened before the Black September group entered Olympic Village.  You have to think the aftermath of the 10,000 meter was marked by celebratory good times, and a similar spirit as the one that was present in Boston at 2:49 PM on Monday.  A spirit interrupted and shattered by the terrible things that happened a few days later.

There were a lot of runners who ended up getting their Olympic experience at the 2013 Boston Marathon.  Unfortunately, the Olympic experience they gained was that of the 1972 Olympics.  Like the Olympians that year, it hurts especially because these terrorists attacked our own people: the same people in our peculiar running subculture.  We can only hope that we continue to band together, press on, and not let them disrupt our way of life.

—Dan Vassallo


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