|April 16, 2013||Posted by Lauren under Running|
I didn’t run my half marathon this weekend. We had some stuff come up with our family that resulted in a last minute trip out of town, leaving me with yet another DNS to my name. Selfishly I was disappointed. No runner wants to DNS a race they’ve been training for, and I seem to be accumulating quite a few of those these days.
The one silver lining to all of this was Boston. Our last minute trip meant that we’d be heading back through MA on Monday morning, just in time to cheer for the marathon. As always, I pushed to go into the city. Every year, no matter where we start out, we make our way down to the finish area after everyone we know has run by. I love being a part of the crowd on Boylston Street. Seeing finishers push to the end on nothing but pure will and heart is one of the most inspiring moments you can hope to witness as a runner…and as a human being.
But Evan somehow convinced me to stay out of the city. We had a long drive back to Vermont after the race and I knew that we’d make it a lot easier on ourselves if we stuck to the suburbs. So instead of starting off at Mile 20 like I’ve done for the past few years now, we camped out in Natick Center (mile 10), excited to cheer for runners in the first half of the race.
It’s crazy to look at the pictures now. To see the images of Evan and me and all the other spectators soaking up the Boston Magic, cheering for strangers and loved ones alike. I had planned to write about how awesome it was to be so close to greatness as the elites sped by, how great it was to cheer for a few friends who were running and then track them to fast finishes, and how disappointed I was that I didn’t get to see everyone — somehow skipping over the faces of friends in an endless sea of runners.
Women leaders, mile 10
The chase pack led by Rita Jeptoo, the eventual winner of the women’s race (with Felix just behind)
The winner – Lelisa Desisa in the front in blue. Amazingly, Jason Hartmann (first US runner and 4th overall) is well off the pack at this point. You can see him in the distance in a red singlet
All that seems silly now. In the face of such senseless tragedy, it’s hard to find the words. I don’t know how to adequately express my reaction to the horror…the complete violation…that occurred yesterday afternoon. How could someone attack a marathon? How could anyone in this world take an event that celebrates the triumph of the human spirit and shatter all that to pieces?
I was actually back home by the time we found out what had happened. I wasn’t feeling well so we decided to head out a little earlier than planned. I drove all the way home reveling in the excitement of the day, until I got a frantic phone call from my youngest sister (who is on a military base all the way out in Missouri) asking if we were okay. When she first told me about the bombing, I didn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe that something so awful would happen right in Boston, my favorite city on my favorite day of the year. It was too horrifying to process.
We spent the rest of the afternoon glued to the news and checking in with friends who were in Boston or running the race. So many people called/texted/tweeted me to check in to see if I was okay. I was overwhelmed — thankful that so many were thinking of us, but devastated that there would be many families whose frantic calls to loved ones would go unanswered, or would be returned with tragic news. It’s almost too much to bear. Even now I feel sick. Every report that comes out gives a higher number of individuals killed or injured. Tragic, life altering, war zone-like injuries. I can’t fully wrap my head around the devastation. And like so many, I can’t make any sense of it.
It seems like we are hit with tragedy after tragedy lately. Each one devastating in its own right. Each one claiming the lives of innocent people and altering our nation forever. Sometimes it seems like there’s no safe place anymore. No love and hope in the world to count on.
It’s almost impossible in the face of so much loss, but I keep trying to focus on the positives. Of the way so many runners and first responders rushed into the chaos instead of away. Of how many locals opened up their homes and hotel rooms to stranded runners — complete strangers in need of a place to stay. How people all over the world took to social media to share stories of hope, or pledge to unite with Boston by wearing Boston Marathon race shirts or colors on Tuesday. Small acts. But when a situation leaves you feeling helpless and devastated, those small acts are sometimes all you can do.
This morning I looked through some of the pictures we took at the race yesterday. Pictures that captured complete strangers undertaking a huge physical and mental feat and all those people that came to support them. At first these images just made the tragedy all the more real. I look at the faces and wonder what happened to each of the individuals I saw running by; to those families that were cheering next to me. I wonder if they are okay, if they made it out unscathed. And I want to cry when I look at the joy on some of the faces — because yesterday should have been joyous. It should have been a celebration of months (or years) of hard work and training, of realizing a dream. One where the only blood, sweat and tears should have come from a runner using every ounce of strength they have to finish 26.2 grueling miles, not caused by a cowardly bomber.
But in a way, these pictures taken a few hours before tragedy struck also capture the amazing community that running creates. They show the triumph of the human spirit. They remind me that no matter what happens, we will continue to bond together. And we will continue to run. For ourselves, for our community, for those whose lives were lost or altered on April 15th and all those tragic days before that. Because when faced with such unspeakable tragedy, it’s the only thing we know to do. The only response that makes any sense.
The mother and child shown crossing the finish line during the blast (that were mistakenly identified as the Hoyts by many). Not only is this women’s strength incredible, but I love the runner next to her cheering her on.
A spectator on his knees giving high fives while a sea of runners pushes on around him
I don’t really have a point to this post. Only that after debating whether or not to write anything at all, I realized that I had to say something. Even if what I’ve written doesn’t begin to do justice to the hurt and devastation.
So I’ll leave you with these — articles written by those who are much more eloquent than I, but (like the rest of us) are doing their best to process the horror of yesterday afternoon, and to find a way to keep pushing forward.
Ask Lauren Fleshman – Bombing in Boston
Lauren’s account of the events from the Fairmont Copley Hotel, where the elite athletes were staying after the race.
The New Yorker – The Meaning of the Boston Marathon
“…Or perhaps it was someone who saw a reflection of the human spirit and decided just to try to shatter it.”
Runner’s World – Boston Bombings: A Loss of Innocence
Even without that special purpose, marathon running is a sport of goodwill. It’s the only sport in the world where if a competitor falls, the others around will pick him or her up. It’s the only sport in the world open to absolutely everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or any other division you can think of. It’s the only occasion when thousands of people assemble, often in a major city, for a reason that is totally peaceful, healthy and well-meaning. It’s the only sport in the world where no one ever boos anybody.
And finally, a post that has been making its way around the internet, but is worth sharing again here.
The Washington Post – ‘If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon’
The finish line at a marathon is a small marvel of fellowship. Everyone is there to celebrate how much stronger the runners are than they ever thought they could be. Total strangers line up alongside the route to yell encouragement. Bands play. Some hand out cups of water, Gatorade, even beer. Others dress up in costumes to make the runners smile. The fact that other people can run this far makes us believe we can run that far. It’s a happy thought. It makes us all feel a little bit stronger.
Today, the final line of the Boston Marathon is a crime scene. It’s a testament to how much more evil human beings can be than we can imagine.
…If you are losing faith in human nature today, watch what happens in the aftermath of an attack on the Boston Marathon. The flood of donations crashed the Red Cross’s Web site. The organization tweeted that its blood supplies are already full. People are lining up outside of Tufts Medical Center to try and help. Runners are already vowing to be at marathons in the coming weeks and months. This won’t be the last time the squeakers run Boston. This won’t be the last time we gather at the finish line to marvel how much more we can take than anyone ever thought possible.
Boston — I love you. And I grieve for you today.