Sunday, April 21, 2013

Second thoughts about the Marine Corps Marathon?

This week’s tragedy at the Boston Marathon shocked and devastated the world. I personally spent days crying, not understanding the why. As someone who runs and loves it, I could not imagine anyone wanting to hurt an event as iconic as the Boston Marathon. I mean, we are just a bunch of runners, out there doing our thing, challenging our bodies to accomplish what most people wouldn’t even think of doing.

I wasn’t at the Boston Marathon this week, but I had a friend who was down at the finish line with his family waiting for his brother to cross. Mike and I had been texting and talking via cell all morning and early afternoon as I watched his brother’s stats and kept him up to date from where they stood at the finish line.

When I got word of the bombing, I was sitting at my desk at work. My cell phone started ringing off the hook, text messages poured in, and co-workers showed up at my desk to tell me the news. I actually hung up on my father without talking to him because I had to find Mike. I called and texted and generally freaked out when I got no response.

Of course, I called my father back, who, like so many other friends and family members wanted to make certain I was safe. (Thank you everyone who thought of me during that tragic event. You touched my heart.) Dad wanted me out of Boston…I obliged him. When a father asks you to do something, you do it. I left my office immediately, all the while trying desperately to get in touch with Mike.

Finally, about two hours after the explosion, I heard from Mike. They were safe. (Breath a huge sigh of relief.) Then I heard from Mike again when he and his family were well away from ground zero and then home. Throughout this week, Mike and I kept in touch via text. Whenever something new was aired, we touched base. Mike knew I was very solemn. How could one not be? I admitted to crying off and on all week. He admitted that I wasn’t alone. (Gotta love a man who makes those kind of admissions.)

Rita, a friend of mine who signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon in October with me, texted me that night. She was in Florida with her family when she got word of the tragedy. She asked if I had second thoughts about running the Marine Corps Marathon.

I never even gave it a second thought before I responded, “Of course not. I am more determined than ever to run that race.”

As a member of the large running community, I will tell you this, we run for ourselves. We run for the love of challenging ourselves and seeing what we can do. While you might be on the streets with hundreds or even thousands of other runners in a race, you are only running against yourself.

While we run for ourselves, running is one of the few sports where if you see a man down you stop to help him up. If a runner is about to tip over, you will see two other runners grab her by the arms and help get her to the finish line. We cheer each other on and boost other runners to that finish line. That’s who we are.

You can wear the silliest clothes to the most simple, or technical. You can be a neighbor or friend, you can be a total stranger, and you may not even speak the same language. You can be fit as a fiddle, wide as a house, or somewhere in between. Maybe you ride in a wheelchair, push a stroller, or just walk. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you showed up and you make it to the finish. Those two things and you’ve earned the respect of every runner there.

If you’ve never been to a running race, you wouldn’t know that the spectators and the race volunteers are the other half of the equation. They are the people out there on their own time, handing out water or Powerade or operating a first aid station. The spectators hold up signs that make you laugh, encourage you to persevere even when the pain grabs your thigh or calf muscles and you think you can’t possibly go on. But you do! You do because the spectators and volunteers with their cowbells and banners in hands call out your name or number to let you know that they are behind you and want you to succeed.

That’s the running community! As a member of this amazing group of people, I can tell you that we will survive, we will heal, we will move forward from the tragic events at the Boston Marathon. We will be stronger, tighter-knit, and even better. It is in our nature and it is something we have to do or they (the bombers) win. That cannot happen!

I ran my first race since Monday's bombing yesterday and was happy to see so many people show up setting a record for the event. Nice to see that it did not scare people away. One volunteer there handed out blue and yellow ribbons for those of us who wanted to wear one to show our support for Boston. I was more than thrilled to pin it to my chest and will continue to do so.

I am dedicating every race this season to Boston, its courage and heart, and the people who came together in crisis. I will run every race this year with Boston on my mind and in my heart, and a blue and yellow ribbon attached to my shirt.

We are and I am BOSTON STRONG!

See you at the Marine Corp Marathon.


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