There is no feeling quite like the one you get after crossing the finish line of a race. Whether it be a new PR that you seized or a fun run you completed with a best friend, it is an invigorating accomplishment that sets its roots deep in your soul and changes you as a person. It links you to the sport of running in a new and unique way and inducts you into the incredible group of people that have set afire the contagious sport across the world – Runners.
About this time yesterday morning I uploaded a picture of Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan to Facebook and publicly daydreamed about how amazing it would be to be present at one of the most prestigious marathons in the world. I’d been following the two distance runners closely, intrigued by their unique situation as training partners and fierce rivals. The more I read about them, the more I fell in love with the friendship they share that would never have occurred outside of tracing mile after mile together.
That is, after all, what running does. It brings people of all different ages, from all different walks of life, together in a physically challenging and emotionally soothing way. It is a place where there is no discrimination of size, religion, or race. A place where politics are put to rest for a few miles and the contents of one’s heart are brought to the surface. It is a place of refuge and accomplishment, a safe haven of sorts, from the burdens the world pours upon us day in and day out.
At least, it was.
There is no amount of coffee, wine, or music, no distraction great enough to drown out the images and sounds from the scene that occurred at Boston yesterday. Though watching from 1,000 miles away, my soul was pierced as I watched the horrifying event unfold. Runners in bright colors and laced with bib numbers eagerly approaching the finish, having in mind only one thing – to cross the finish line – being thrown back by a loud boom and confused as they were blinded by a mass of smoke. Spectators made up of friends, family and running enthusiasts thrown to the ground as blood gushed from wounds and screams erupted from their throats. Runners who were finding joy using their legs to push them through 26.2 miles one minute, filled with horror at the loss of the limbs that will never again carry them across that same pavement.
Why? Just, why?
Some people are calling it terrorism. Others think it’s part of a conspiracy. One reporter said that she found it interesting that the bombs were placed low, almost targeting the limbs of the runners. Was someone specifically targeting people that find joy in the freedom of using their legs?
I don’t know and I don’t claim to have a theory. What I do know is that this is yet another attack on the spirit of humanity, one probably meant to make us lose faith in each other and our world. But you know what? It won’t work. This attack was placed on a group of people that live to push themselves past limits. People who treat pain like children treat candy- seeking it out and eating it up until they can’t stomach anymore. Runners are, by nature, a people of hope. We place hope in our bodies, that they will carry us through the miles and across the finish line. We place hope in each other, that we will be there to push each other on training runs, to lift each other up through a fall and to cheer each other on during a race. We place hope in our world, that it will continue to fill our lungs with the oxygen we breathe and the earth that we pace. We place hope in our children as we watch them run, skip and play with the innocence that may be lost for us, but is very much alive in them.
I think back now to the year that I “found” myself as a runner. I ventured to college a confused soul trying eagerly to find out who I was and it wasn’t until I took up the sport that I slowly began to feel comfortable in my own shoes. Running transitioned me from my youth into my adult hood. It helped me work through struggles from my past and brought a new appreciation for life to my present. It carried me as I struggled through severe postpartum depression and has been there for me every time I’ve come back from an injury. Running has strengthened my marriage and made me a better mother. It has opened incredible venues of friendship and introduced me to amazing people and opportunities. Running, even after the events of yesterday, brings hope into my life and no bombs or terrorists can ever change that.
Now, more than ever, I want my running to mean something. I want to do something, anything, to help all of those affected by yesterday’s tragedy. If it means running a mile for each of the 155 injured, I’ll do it. If it takes running 3 marathons for the 3 deceased, sign me up. Whether it be running, praying, or giving in some way, let’s all rise up and do something to replace the evil with good. If you are already a runner, run harder. If you are not yet one, today is the perfect time to begin. Let’s push forward together and prove that there is not and never will be a finish line for HOPE.