Boston – A Runner’s Perspective

It’s almost 24 hours after the bombs went off during the Boston Marathon. I’ve spent this time reading about the heroes who emerged immediately. I’ve spent very little time reading about or watching videos of the explosion. I’ve spent this time reading online newspapers and blogs written by runners. They understand the runner’s perspective on this event. So much of what I read is similar to my thoughts that I wondered if I could come up with anything unique to say. While the running community has many things in common, I hope to be able to share my perspective with you.

I was in New York City when they announced the marathon was cancelled. I spent some time being angry and frustrated, but I got over that quickly and became a typical Midwestern tourist for the rest of my trip. What got to me, though, was how non-runners were so angry at us for being disappointed, or for not going to Staten Island and helping with the relief efforts. There were many people who were pissed that thousands of runners showed up in Central Park on Sunday and ran anyway. How could the runners be so heartless when so many people were without power or shelter or food? What they didn’t know was, we were told to stay away from Staten Island because they had too many “helpers” there already.  What they didn’t know, or couldn’t understand was, runners of the world unite unlike any other sport. I went to Central Park and witnessed runners from across the world joining together to organize their own marathon. While tragedy stopped the official marathon, it did not stop the runners. The running community came together as one. This community made my disappointment dissolve the moment I saw them there.

Yes, but New York was an “Act of God,” right? Boston is different, right? In many ways, yes, but the response from the running community is the same. Instead of a major weather event, it was a major lunatic who stopped the race. Whoever did this stopped the race, but not the runners. There are stories of runners helping the injured. There are stories of runners going past the finish line and continuing to run until they got to the hospital so they could donate blood. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know how physically difficult that was for them. They had to use their heart to keep running after the finish line. That’s the only way.

What happened to the people who were stopped on the course? I can identify with them because their dream marathon was cut short. I train for marathons all the time. I run even when it’s an “off-season” because I can’t stop running! I run at least two marathons a year and usually around five half-marathons a year. It’s the same training cycle with each marathon. I spend 12 weeks ramping up the miles by running at 7:00 AM on Saturdays, as well as every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’m not complaining – I love it! As race day approaches, I’m forced to cut back on my miles so I can recover. The lack of running, and the growing anticipation of race day, drives me (and Alana) crazy!

Being at the starting line is the second happiest part of a marathon. It’s pure joy being out there with old friends, new friends, and running friends I’ll meet on the course. The next 26 miles are a blur of gels, hydration, electrolyte depletion, strangers cheering, kids wanting high-fives, runners passing me going uphill and me passing them going downhill. The last two-tenths of the marathon is the best part of any marathon I’ve run. Everyone is cheering you on. People  are on the sidelines waiting for a loved one to come down that finish line chute, but they cheer you on anyway. Or at least it feels that way to me. I cross the finish line and, despite the cramping and other pain, I celebrate my accomplishment while limping to find Alana. I limp to find my running team friends, take pictures, and re-hydrate with a beer later in the day. I need this post-marathon routine almost as much as I need to run! The people on the sidelines need to cheer and share in the joy of the finish line almost as much as we need to run.

So what does this have to do with Boston? The bomber attacked the marathon by attacking the friends and family on the sidelines. When they attack our friends and family, they attack us! I shared my marathon running perspective with you so you could understand how important it is to me. I’m not alone in this feeling. I don’t just run with a community of runners, I run in a family of runners. My family just happens to live all over the world and I see them twice a year (or more). The reason I know it’s my family is because we are all thinking the same thing about this tragedy. The lunatic wanted to stop a marathon and kill as many people as possible in the process. He, or they, succeeded in the short run. But, within 24 hours, the marathon family came together to decide that this senseless act of god will not stop us. We will keep running. We will run today to honor the memory of those who lost their lives or were injured yesterday. We will run tomorrow and the next day, and we will show up for the next major marathon (Flying Pig for me) without fear and with a renewed purpose. Our purpose will be to show the people responsible for Boston, and anyone else who thinks violence can control us, that we cannot be controlled or stopped. All you did when you set your bomb was to run away. We run for ourselves. We run for our loved ones. We run for our team. We run for our running family. We run toward hope. We run.

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