It is Encoded in My Genes


David Yon, Post Boston 2013


It is encoded into my genes and I will not let them take it away. I ran my first marathon in February of 1985. Almost as soon as I crossed the finish line in Killearn Estates, I started thinking about it – qualifying for and running in the Boston Marathon. I decided I would run the Tallahassee Marathon the following year to secure the qualifying time. I would have to improve my time by more than eight minutes. The Tallahassee race course moved to Wacissa Springs and it was on fast flat course. I would spend almost a year training and preparing and it paid off.

As I prepared, I devoured stories of the history of the Boston Marathon, including Don Kardong’s entertaining book, Thirty Phone Booths to Boston, including his tale of trying to cover the race in 1981 by calling phone booths along the race route and having spectators tell him what was happening. I read books that stated there were no mile marks on the course. Instead, distances were reported from the start line to checkpoints in towns like Ashland and at train stations along the way. Maybe it is bad memory, but I swear I wrote them down on my wrist so I could remember them on race day. It turned out by 1986 though the miles were marked on the course.

Runners that first year huddled in a small gym in Hopkinton or just found a spot in the grass outside before the start. There was no athletes’ village. The crowd was less than 5,000, but it was a fit group all subject to the very exacting qualifying times. The sights and sounds of the route to Boston from Hopkinton through so many supportive communities created the memories that encoded the love of Boston into my genes. Just before the half way point of the race in Wellesley, the women of Wellesley College took over the road and formed a tunnel that forced runners to proceed in single file down a screaming path of encouragement and support. I would run the race many more times after that first year and each race had its own special memories. Every time though the route was lined with spectators who seemed to have one goal – help you, the runner, do your best on Patriots’ Day. Marathon day was about coming together to create something bigger than the individuals who participated and those who lined the course.

On Monday, I was sitting in my office talking on the phone to a client when the messages began popping up on my screen. “I just talked to Tony. He is ok.” I had noticed Tony’s finish time was slower than he had probably hoped for, but the comment still seemed strange. Then: “A bomb has gone off in Boston.” The messages and the pictures started pouring in. There were nearly 25 runners participating from this area and most of them had family members with them. Many of them knew one of the prime spots to watch the race finish – the same spot I was now watching erupt in shrapnel and smoke knocking down runners and while I could not see this, severing the limbs of spectators. My next 4-6 hours were spent frantically confirming everyone’s safety.

It is simply unknowable what evil drives humans to do this to each other. After all, it seems we have been doing harm to each other since the beginning of human existence. In this case, it is as if someone wants to take something dear and special away from me and from my friends. And they want to replace it with fear. We will not let this happen. We cannot let this happen. It would be great if we could stop hating each other so much. I doubt that will happen in my life time, but I have to believe on a personal level we can still work to make the world better. That we can keep running marathons.

I was thankful to visit the Boston Marathon web site this week and find the following message:
Boston is strong. Boston is resilient. Boston is our home. And Boston has made us enormously proud in the past 24 hours. The Boston Marathon is a deeply held tradition – an integral part of the fabric and history of our community. We are committed to continuing that tradition with the running of the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014.

Boston will always be embedded in my genes. The Tuesday morning after the Boston Marathon – well I started working on a earning a qualifying time for 2014.

This Saturday Tallahassee’s oldest 5K race, the Palace Saloon 5K, will begin at 8:00 a.m. Runners will be flying the colors of the Boston Athletic Association with blue and yellow ribbon and there will a large banner to sign. Find more details at