Marco Werman: As for this year's Boston marathon, six days away, 36,000 people will be hitting the streets as official participants in it. That's 9,000 more than last year. They're coming from countries all over the world, as usual, and they're running for lots of different reasons. Maybe to break a personal record or to support a cause or just to stay in shape. The World's Matthew Bell spoke with one first time Boston runner who wants to make a national statement with his participation.
Matthew Bell: When Lukman Faily laces up his running shoes on Monday morning, like many of his fellow marathoners, he'll be doing it for charity. Two different charitable organizations, actually. But he'll also be committing an act of international diplomacy. Faily is the Iraqi ambassador to the United States but on April 15th of last year, the day of the Boston marathon attack, Faily was finishing up his stint as Iraq's top diplomat in Japan.
Lukman Faily: Well, when I was ambassador in Tokyo and the unfortunate tragic event took place last year, by that time I was aware that I would be coming over to the United States as ambassador.
Bell: Faily had run two marathons before, both in Tokyo, so as he watched the news from Boston on TV, he quickly decided to sign up for this city's marathon in 2014.
Faily: I was very keen to put a statement of solidarity with our American friends, that we're there terrorism together. Iraq has had tragic issues with terrorism, it's a challenge and I'm here to signify a sign of solidarity with the American people.
Bell: But how could you even begin to compare what happened here in Boston to the current situation in Iraq? On the morning I interviewed Faily, multiple car bombs had exploded in Baghdad. At least 18 people were dead, dozens wounded and yet, it was just another day in life of Iraq. I mentioned to Faily a number put out recently by the United Nations. 8,868 people were killed in Iraq last year. As tragic as the events in Boston were, it's just a completely scale we're talking about.
Faily: In Iraq, we have proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that we are a very tenacious people. We will have this fight, we will carry on fighting terrorism, we won't put up with it, we will win. We made it loud and clear to everybody and people have appreciated that, our character to fight terrorism day in and day out with that scale and viciousness.
Bell: Faily says his country has become a magnet for international terrorists. The chaos next door in Syria is spilling over the border into Iraq but the ambassador wants Americans to know that it's not a lost cause. Iraqis are looking forward to national elections at the end of the month, he says, and there's opportunity for social and economic development.
Faily: We have a great relationship with the White House. We would like to strengthen that relationship with the White House and other institutions who have had a role in Iraq before.
Bell: Faily says he's not talking about putting American boots back on the ground in Iraq, but he says Baghdad would like closer cooperation with Washington. As for the race, Faily knows the course in Boston is famously tough. He's 48-years-old and not thinking about breaking any records.
Faily: No, not even my own record. Tokyo is so flat here. You have hills up and down and so on there. So the key object for me, or the target is to just complete it within the allowed time and to complete it comfortably because I think it's important that I enjoy the event and also that I do it within a reasonable shape.
Werman: We wish Iraqi ambassador to the US Lukman Faily and all the runners next week clear skies and a crisp tailwind. That report from The World's Matthew Bell.