It is no secret that marathons hold a grasp on my heart and special place in every aspect of my life. For the past two days, I have been called, emailed, and texted asking, “Were you running? Are you safe?” and most painfully, “How do you feel about what happened?”. And in truth, it has taken me this long to try and decide how to adequately respond, and how to thoroughly process, the unfortunate events in Boston. I could not reason why, once I finally received the notice that every one of my 30 + friends running were accounted for, I still felt hollow. Monday’s events mean so much more than that one deplorable moment in time, which is what makes this emptiness so difficult to describe. And I think that lies in what marathoning, particularly Boston, means for so many. As runners, we need only to say the words “to qualify”. We know the magic and the lifelong ambitions those words evoke. To diligently trim off minutes, even seconds, from our 26.2 mile races to one day, please just maybe, be lucky enough to qualify for Boston. Just having Boston was enough to get some of us through our roughest times. Surmounting injury or heartbreak seemed realistic when there was always the hope of something bigger and better to make it worth it in the end. And gradually we learn to utilize our experiences and strengths in racing in our outwards lives. But whatever appalling force attempted to sever our spirit did so to the most impenetrable of audiences. As marathoners, we are considered inherently tough. We enjoy things that most people consider potentially committable, yet curiously admirable. In truth, we’re all hiding our own terrible somethings behind our Marathon Maniac singlets, our black toenails, and our stress fractures. We share some of these most deeply personal stories, fears, and emotions, because it does not take long to deduce- this is not a solo event. We build a love and a camaraderie that we continuously possess as teammates, as athletes, as spectators, as friends, or as acquaintances both on and off the race course.
And for the first time, the community and the event that have been so much a source of comfort, stability, and confidence for myself and for others, were threatened. We will never be quite the same. The tragic loss of any member of our worldwide family will always be in the back of our minds. But now, in response to whatever the motives were held against us, I feel our companionship more than ever. I spent over six hours on Facebook, waiting for the Marathon Maniac names pop up on our list of accounted for. And though all of my friends were safe, this week’s death’s still take a chunk of my heart with them. But in standard form, as with every mile and every battle we have experienced, we can learn to mourn, to smile, to embrace, and to stay strong together. Because that is what marathoners do. And if we learn nothing else about tragedy in Boston, we can realize that now runners and non-runners alike have been welcomed into our community and experience that same affection that we have grown to appreciate.
I am so touched by how many tried to reach out to me when they heard the news. And I am sorry if I could only give a brief remark. I needed to personally accept that it was not weakness to cry. I was so scared that no one could understand why I cared so much, that I did not even try to express what Boston meant to my life, what hours of not knowing if my friends were safe, and-I suppose at the heart of it all- how awful a blow to the marathoning world felt . And as I have spent the past few days getting in touch with those I have met over my marathon journeys, we tell each other- it is okay to feel scared when something you love so intensely is threatened. So I suppose, really, this is a roundabout way of explaining how I was feeling, and why I could not attempt to answer the question in a simple text. Monday was shocking for a great deal of people, and more so for those in the marathon community. There are reactions of sadness, revenge, and shock.
But giving up is in no way part of our nature and, though we must respect the events that have occurred, we can’t be diverted from what we really love. Because if we do, in a way, we will let our previous notions of racing disappear a little further. This is an opportunity to strengthen our relationships, to remember those we have lost, to savor our experiences, and to embrace the love and hope that Boston had, and now more strongly will, perpetuate.