I know that my feelings echo that of pretty much everyone who has ever laced up their sneakers for a tempo run or crossed a finish line. But I’ve been trying to process the events at the Boston Marathon for a few days now, and would feel remiss if I didn’t at least attempt to express my reaction to this senseless tragedy.
As someone who has only been running seriously for about a year and a half, and whose per-mile pace times are utterly laughable compared to those of the elite athletes who were competing in the Boston Marathon on Monday, I was honestly surprised by just how hard the news hit me. Don’t get me wrong — any act of terrorism committed on innocent civilians is obviously enough to shake anyone to their core, but I am still struggling to digest the news of such a blatant attack of the sport that has done so much for me. News of the Sandy Hook shootings back in December broke my heart, but I felt I couldn’t fully connect with the enormity of what happened because I don’t have children of my own…I really couldn’t even begin to fathom the pain those parents were feeling.
But what happened in Boston this week touched me on a level that I CAN understand. Even though I wasn’t at the Boston Marathon, or personally knew anybody running or spectating that day, the bombings felt so unabashedly personal to me. I could so very clearly imagine completing those 20 or 23 or 25 miles that I had trained so hard and for so many months to run, anxiously awaiting that ultimate moment of pride and accomplishment. I could imagine looking forward to being cheered on by my loved ones and crossing that finish line and feeling the weight of that finisher’s medal around my neck…only to turn a corner and see that the finish line was no more.
I know what running has done for me…what it means to me…and seeing fellow runners and their loved ones attacked at what is such a pivotal event for our sport hurt. It really hurt.
As many of you know, I recently registered for my very first marathon. Granted, I will tackle this challenge in Walt Disney World, in costume, with lots of character photo opportunities along the way and other silly fun…but no matter where you choose to run a marathon, 26.2 miles are 26.2 miles. After training for my first half marathon, I can honestly say that I know what it’s like to have your entire life consumed with preparing for a singular personal milestone, and right now I can only imagine the kind of dedication that I know I’m going to have to bring to the table if I’m going to successfully (and safely) complete next year’s Dopey Challenge.
So I can’t help but put myself in the minds and hearts of all the runners who were there to celebrate their accomplishment on Monday with their friends and family, but had to face sheer terror instead.
Running has changed my life in so many ways, and I continue to feel as though I owe a debt of gratitude to the sport that has helped me discover so much about myself and what I can achieve…and, more importantly, the kind of person I truly am. So to have the holy grail of the sport of running — the Boston Marathon — so brutally and senselessly terrorized has filled me with emotions that I really can’t even begin to explain.
These are people who had committed to putting their bodies and their minds through the ultimate test of perseverance and endurance and dedication, and I am utterly enraged for all of those who were about to see that glorious finish line in the distance. I can’t stomach the idea of my sister or my boyfriend or my parents or any of the people who have ever come out to cheer me on during a race waiting for me at the finish line that day. I can’t comprehend the idea of a person whose sense of self rests so heavily on their ability to lace up their sneakers and go for a run suffering severe injuries to their legs…or losing them all together.
As I sit here watching the news coverage of the hunt for the second suspect, I still don’t know why this happened. I still don’t know how to process it. But I do plan to do my part to help fight back on behalf of the running community. I’ve been trying to rest my foot as much as possible, but still went out and logged my 4:09 run in honor of Boston this week. I will don a Boston bib on the back of my race shirt in both of my upcoming half marathons, and participate in the Run 26.2 for Boston challenge on Facebook. I also intend to participate in a virtual 5k sponsored by NYCRuns to benefit The One Fund Boston, and am keeping my eyes peeled for other races and fundraisers and any other opportunities to show my support.
Because, really, the only thing I can think to do in response to this tragedy is run.
Despite all of the heartbreak and the confusion and the rage that continues to bubble up inside of me, the events of Marathon Monday have made me so very grateful for the ability to lace up my running sneakers. The running community has welcomed me with open arms, and I am forever appreciative of all of the support and encouragement I have found since I started running. But more importantly, horrific acts like the Boston Marathon bombings demonstrate just how precious life is…and why you have to appreciate every moment you spend here on this Earth.
That’s what running is for me. And that’s why this attack hurt so much.
Whomever these [insert expletive here] kids are who did this should have known that they were messing with some of the most tenacious and strong and dedicated people on the planet. And I know I can speak for all of us — as both a runner and an American — when I say that we will not back down.
I have never been more proud to call myself a runner.