The other day I wrote about the excitement of the Boston Marathon expo and the energy in the city that was getting ready for one of the most exciting races of the year. Runners spend years dreaming of qualifying. They pound the pavement for months for the anticipation of running Boston – the most prestigious race.
I was cheering at mile 24 yesterday afternoon, waiting for a friend to run by to cheer her on. Runners were asking spectators how the Red Sox were doing (they won). Runners of all ages from across the world were out there pushing through the pain, yet still smiling. They took the time to stop and give their friends and family a quick hug or a child a high-five. I cheered for strangers and felt inspired to run another marathon.
Twenty minutes later, my twitter feed went off – explosions at the finish line. I was in shock – the runners I had cheered for were probably just finishing. Now, after running 26.2 miles, they had to search for their family and friends who were scattering from the chaos of the finish line. I turned on the TV and watched pictures of the scene. I hated seeing police with guns standing at the entrance of the hospital I work at this morning.
It’s hard not to be heartbroken by these events. Seeing the faces of victims – especially the 8 year old boy who had just given his dad a congratulatory hug – just shatters me. Although people are still grieving, the running community has come together to form a stronger-than-ever bond.
Running isn’t about winning. Yes, it’s fun to watch the elite runners come in at a faster-than-my-sprint pace, but no matter how fast you run, it’s about community. I was introduced to running by my mom and fell in love after my first 5k a few weeks later. It wasn’t easy, but from the start, I knew there was something special about being out there alone with your thoughts and in tune with your body. In high school, I ran cross-country – not because I was fast – but because the team environment was so welcoming and encouraging to all.
I’ve always been drawn to both running (and yoga) and thought of it as a form of moving meditation. It’s something I can always go to in a time of pain, anger, or happiness. I can leave my phone at home and just be alone with my thoughts. Instead of pushing my thoughts away, running is a time to work through them and clear my head. I always come back home with a sense of accomplishment and the feeling that everything will be okay.
The bond between runners is strong. It’s the little head nod or wave from runners that seems to say ‘good luck.’ It’s the “you got this,” or conversations between runners in the last few miles of a race pushing each other forward. It’s the runners who have already finished out there cheering on everyone else.
Running is a time to celebrate life. The energy at a finish line is contagious. Runners cross the finish line after completing the impossible and persevering through many miles. Walk around any finish line area, and you’ll hear runners say that it was the hardest thing they’ve ever done, but they can’t wait to do it again.
The spectators are one of my favorite parts of races. They’re the ones out there for hours just waiting to see their family member or friend for a few seconds. While waiting, they’re cheering loudly for strangers. It’s the spectators who yell out the names of runners from their shirts or bibs. It’s the spectators that give you that little boost of confidence and energy you need. Their smiles and words are powerful enough to keep powering up that hill or to pick up the pace a little.
To hear that these spectators cheering on their family, friends, or strangers were the ones hurt is devastating. Although Boston is still full of sadness today, the spirit of runners is still alive. There were runners out in Boston jackets this morning and plenty of others wearing race t-shirts in remembrance.
The only thing I could imagine doing after work today was running. I laced up my shoes and headed out along the marathon course, dedicating the miles to all the victims and hearts hurting today. I waved and smiled at all the runners I saw out, and they all returned the favor. It wasn’t much, but I’m hoping the love I left out on the course spreads throughout the city and the running community.
This tragedy hasn’t turned runners away from marathons and the sport of running. Most runners want to run Boston or other races more than ever now. Next month, I’ll be returning to my home state and favorite race of all time – Vermont City Marathon – to run half of the marathon. Surrounded by thousands of runners and the most spectator-friendly race I’ve run in, the spirit of runners will be strong.
The other day I posted a quote by Olympic runner Kara Goucher that still applies: “That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.”
Let’s celebrate the lives of the victims with running, or whatever form of moving mediation you want. Although running will not bring back those lost, it can remind us and others that we are loved. This week, dedicate a few miles – running or walking – to the victims and the city of Boston. Push through, and let running heal your heart, so that you can spread love to others.
Run for Boston.