What I’m about to say isn’t profound. It doesn’t include platitudes or calls for revenge or offer answers to the bereaved cries of “why did this happen?” This is more of a process post, I suppose, and my way of conveying the very personal way the tragedy at the Boston Marathon, in the heart of the great city of Boston, has impacted me.
When I heard that bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday, I, like so many, stood in stunned disbelief. Bombs? What? When I saw the video, I cried. Tears have been kept just at bay (and not always successfully) since then. I messaged a few of my closer friends who live there, relieved to see replies of “yes, I’m OK,” and “no, I wasn’t there.” I was also relieved to see Facebook messages from runners who I know were there and who are also OK, at least free from physical harm.
Beyond being afraid for my friends, and slowly processing the overwhelming images and stories coming out of Boston, I’ve been having trouble articulating why I have been so upset.
So much has already been written and said that it’s hard to keep up, but two things in particular that I saw gave me pause, and started me down this path of getting this out of my head and into a post (for whatever it’s worth). The first was from Lauren Fleshman on Facebook yesterday: “Safe, shattered, on way home.” She wrote this post in response to the bombings.
And from this Washington Post story that ran today: “Of all places to ruin and end lives, literally yards from where so many of the more than 24,000 runners worked so hard to embrace a pure and noble goal — to run, and finish, a race. That’s why so many of us started running, putting one foot monotonously in front of the other, moving forward. Of all places to attack the majesty of the human spirit: at the finish line.“
I have never run Boston, and my assumption is that I never will. I’m simply not fast enough. Maybe I should say I’m not fast enough yet…. I sometimes question the legitimacy of my running at all, but I also know that only runners do that, so I must be legit. But trust me, after a day like yesterday, it’s safe to say there are a whole lot of runners right now, including me, who want to be at that start line, and the finish line, either again, or for the first time. But I am a runner, and I know people who ran the race yesterday, and others who experienced this first hand. If you are a runner, and particularly if you have finished a marathon, any marathon, then you have a connection to the runners who run Boston, and runners everywhere, every race.
I was ready to watch the race that I’d recorded at home, but instead sat numb as I watched news of the unfolding of the day’s events from my living room, 1,300 miles away from the city I love so much. My connection to the city of Boston is from my time spent there in the summer of 2011 at a executive education program at the Kennedy School. For a small town girl to feel comfortable in a city like Boston says a lot about the city, and the girl. Boston fits me like a glove. I feel at home there and I get back as often as I can. To see it rattled by bombs at the runner’s holy grail of races? I really don’t have any meaningful words.
There is a sense of a running community that you only know if you are a runner, particularly a long distance or race runner. The Illinois Marathon is less than two weeks away. I’ve been working really hard to run it well and now everything about the marathon and the finish line and what it stands for for so many has been changed by someone who thought placing bombs at a marathon finish line was a good idea. This is personal, even from so far away. Running a marathon, certainly finishing one, may never be the same.
The next time I’m in Boston, I’ll walk solemnly through Back Bay, and down Boylston. Or maybe I’ll run it.
I’ll meet my friends for coffee, or a beer.
In the meantime, I’ll keep running, stronger now, hopefully. Kathrine Switzer said you can’t run and stay mad. She’s right about that. I’ll add that you can’t run and cry either. At my own marathon in less than two weeks, I may be in Illinois, but I’ll be running strong for Boston.