Boston Marathon’s holy ground and sacred bonds

c. Religion News Service 2013
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) When it comes to running, America often looks like a country divided between apostles and apostates.

For true believers like Olympian Ryan Hall, marathons assume an almost-biblical importance. “I have heard stories and had personal experiences in my own running when I felt very strongly that God was involved,” Hall, an evangelical Christian, has said.

Other Americans — athletic atheists, you might call them — roll their eyes and see marathons as a painful waste of a perfectly nice day.

Daniel Burke (second from left) with his wife and family after the Marine Corp Marathon in 2007.

Daniel Burke (second from left) with his wife and family after the Marine Corp Marathon in 2007.

In the Church of Running, I sit somewhere in the back pew.

I’ve run four marathons, but my training regimen reads like a catalog of the Seven Deadly Sins. I swill beer on the night before long runs (gluttony). I don’t stretch (sloth). And I confess to an occasional desire to trip faster runners (envy).

Despite my failings and flat feet, my eyes remain fixed on Mecca. And for me, as for many runners, Mecca is the Boston Marathon.

Most races have an open-door policy, accepting even wretched sinners like me. But Boston has stringent time requirements. You have to earn the right to run down B