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You can get a screen saver of a CITGO sign. Did you know that? Did you want to know that? It’s not just any CITGO sign, it’s the CITGO sign. It’s the sign that you can see over the Green Monster. It’s the sign that marks the 20th mile in the Boston Marathon. If you have ever run a marathon, you know that by the time you make it to twenty miles, you know you can make it all the way. Unless you’re running the Flying Monkey Marathon, in which case it never pays to get arrogant. In Boston, it’s cake once you’ve gotten to the CITGO sign.

Getting to Boston, however, is not cake. Getting to Boston is hard. It’s by no means impossible for an amateur, but you have to be a serious runner to qualify. That’s right. You have to run another marathon fast enough to be allowed to pay money to run from Hopkinton to Boston. For instance, a man my age must run a 3 hour and 15 minute marathon to qualify to enter Boston. Every runner who has been serious enough to run a couple of marathons knows what it means to have a jacket with a unicorn on it. Boston is special.

Those of us who routinely finish around four hours know just how special it is. It’s a race that exists just beyond our grasp, for which we hope to qualify in later years if we don’t slow down. (The qualifying times go up with age.) Still, we are not wimps. You can’t just finish a marathon without trying, especially not in four hours. In every race except for Boston, we’d be right in the middle of the pack. Boston is different, and someone who set off a bomb four hours after the race started did not know anything about why.

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