Today we need to remember the joy of marathons

At the Guardian running blog, we celebrate the joys and pitfalls of running, but we never expected to be talking about tragedy. Yet it feels wrong not to acknowledge the awful events in Boston yesterday.

Running is simultaneously the most private, lonely, self-obsessed pursuit – and the most sociable. We train alone – most of us measure ourselves only against our own previous achievements and yet we are part of something millions of people do every day. We join teams, clubs, find running buddies, and we join these huge, wonderful, colourful, chaotic, inspiring races.

Marathons – and other mass participation races – have their own spirit, their own peculiar camaraderie. They exemplify much that is eccentric, baffling, and downright wonderful about the human race. Why do we run them? Both entirely for ourselves, to get fitter, to lose some weight, to prove someone wrong – or just because they are there. For the most mundane of reasons, and also for the greatest – to help other people. Most participants in this year's Boston marathon will have been raising money for a charity.

As runners we all know the relief, the exultation, of finally seeing that finish line, knowing we have so nearly made it. Suddenly legs that felt heavy regain a little spring: a burst of speed that felt utterly impossible 100 weary metres ago suddenly appears.

Meanwhile friends and family will have gathered at the finish. Sometimes when I'm struggling in a race I imagine my little girls cheering me on at the end. And so it breaks my heart to hear that at that awful finishing line, one of the victims may have been an eight-year-old boy, apparently rushing to congratulate his dad.

Running breaks down barriers – social barriers, pain barriers – at the end of a long race you are barely more than a pair of wheezing lungs and a collection of aches strung tightly, painfully together. So let us please not make Boston bombings about politics, or nationality, or speculation – this is just about us, as runners, sending our thoughts and wishes to other runners and their families and friends.

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