I don’t know about you, but the last several weeks have worn me out. The Boston bombings were just so horrific. We were all wounded, in a sense.
I had many friends in Boston, either on the race course when the bombs exploded or nearby.
The ensuing weeks have reminded me of the incredible resilience of the running community and the goodness of 99.99% of humanity.
This post is dedicated to the people who died in the Boston bombings, those who were injured, whose lives will never be the same, to the runners who finished and those who were stopped, to the first responders, to the City of Boston, and to runners all over the world, who were all affected by this tragedy.
I will always remember where I was and what I was doing when it happened, and I’m sure you will as well.
This post will not be sad. We’ve had enough sadness. I will focus on the resilience I just spoke of and the random acts of kindness perpetrated all over that city and around this country in the hours and days since that tragic event.
One of my favorite quotes comes from David and Kelvin Bright:
"If you're trying to defeat the human spirit, marathon runners are the wrong group to target."
First, from Laura Wellington of Boston, this story:
I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn't hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded "no." He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me "you are a finisher in my eyes." I was barely able to choke out a "thank you" between my tears.
Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I'm reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.
And this from a post by Erin Gloria Ryan on the Jezebel.com site. The post is titled, "The People Who Watch Marathons." I hope you'll click the link and read the whole post.
“One of the many puzzling aspects of yesterday's attacks was the question of what, exactly, the perpetrators thought they'd accomplish by targeting what basically amounts to a celebration of human tenacity...If anything, the tragedy in Boston will further solidify the bond between runner and spectator. And when the Chicago marathon happens this October, I'll show up to run harder, and they'll show up to cheer louder. If anyone thought this attack would discourage the runners or the watchers, they've clearly never been to a marathon.”
And from my good friend Ellen Gerth:
Having qualified for the Marathon at age 50, I was super excited to run this world renowned race. I had run Boston three times in my early 20s and was eager to have the opportunity to run it again 30 years later! Yet, not long after qualifying, I began suffering from IT Band Syndrome– a tendon injury that afflicts many runners and often takes months to heal. But I didn’t have months. The Wednesday before the marathon, I decided I wasn’t physically able to run Boston – my injury was still giving me a lot of grief, and I hadn’t been able to put in the training miles needed to run a very hilly 26.2 course. The following morning, however, I had a change of heart. After eking out 5 miles, I decided that I’d attempt the marathon, acknowledging that I’d run cautiously...and slowly. It was such a privilege to have qualified, and I knew that the chances of my qualifying again were pretty slim. I told myself that if my leg gave out, I could always walk…or even hop a cab.
The morning of the race, while waiting with a friend in Hopkinton, where all the marathoners gather prior to the race start, I was feeling really good. I knew that I had made the right decision to be there. The exhilaration I felt at the race start kept me on the Marathon course until mile 25.5 when I was abruptly stopped – along with all of the runners in front of me. I had definitely fallen into the runner’s ‘zone,’ oblivious to the noise and events around me, focused on one thing only: running through the finish line, and I knew I was almost there. I never did hear the explosions that impacted so many innocent lives. Yet, I did hear sirens…lots of sirens. While waiting on Boylston Street, the tragic news spread rapidly amongst the runners and the spectators. We were in complete shock and disbelief. How could this have happened, and why? I decided then it was time to start moving.
A runner I had befriended was shaking in her sleeveless tank top. I gave her my arm sleeves since I had a long-sleeve shirt that I had tied around my waist during the marathon. I was grateful that I had not unloaded the shirt along the way. I grabbed my new friend’s arm and said, “Let’s go. We need to get out of here. We need water.”
We also needed to find our runner’s bags which were supposed to be at the finish line. They carried our warm clothing and cell phones. Thankfully, I had been able to reach my husband via another runner’s cell phone – so my family knew I was OK.
Arm in arm, my new friend and I held on to each other tightly so our bodies would warm each other against the cold. Our trek through the city looking for our baggage would turn into a three-hour odyssey in which we would meet amazingly generous people despite the heartbreaking events surrounding us.
It began with the bouncer at the tavern who brought us two large ice-filled glasses of water to take with us on our journey. We then visited Dunkin Donuts to buy warm coffee and bagels. Here the manager was giving out free hot chocolate to the bedraggled runners entering her shop. I will never forget this woman’s face and her apparent deep concern for all of her clients…most of whom were runners trying to figure out what to do and where to go. She kindly gave us three garbage bags to shield us from the wind, the third for another runner who joined us, also hoping to find her personal possessions.
I soon learned that my hotel, two blocks from the finish line, was in lock-down. A policeman calmly told me, “We’ve heard there could be a 4th bomb.” At this point, I decided we needed to pick up the pace. It was getting late and we were all shaking terribly from the cold. Thankfully, runners along the way – who had finished the course early and had the good fortune of showering and being fully dressed – gave us their reflector blankets to help keep us warm as we confronted the setting sun.
Three hours after being stopped at mile 25.5 of the Boston Marathon, and 10 miles later, I was permitted to enter my hotel, having finally located my worldly goods. More importantly, having returned to the warmth of my bedroom, I immediately thought about all of the compassionate people I had encountered that day: those that shared their cell phones as we all frantically tried to reach our loved ones, those who freely gave out food and drink, and of course, the police officers who answered our anxious questions, patiently and thoughtfully in the midst of the chaos and tragedy that had shattered so many lives that day. These vivid memories of human kindness will remain with me always and will carry me through my next Boston Marathon.
And from Frank Streine, a member of my coaching group:
Frank Streine I for one actually hope it will not change races forever...at least not in any way that it detracts from the overall experience.
I'm new to the racing thing, had never done a single one until this year and they are events that you really have to do to appreciate. There's that sense of camaraderie, that sense of accomplishment and that competitive spirit that tells you you're going to catch and pass that guy ahead of you. Even if that person is yourself and the goal is a PR for that distance.
Letting the cowardly act of a terrorist, domestic or otherwise, change our behavior is exactly what they want. That innocent folks died is tragic. Mourn those lost, pull together and support each other but don't change what you do or why you do it.”
That evil act has changed us, like it or not, in these ways:
1. We will all run with more enthusiasm, commitment, and conviction than ever.
2. We will love each other even more, if that's possible.
3. We will appreciate every step, every spectator, and every volunteer at every race like never before.