My (Peripheral) Boston Marathon Story

A picture taken in a more innocent time—pre-marathon.

A photo taken in a more innocent time—pre-marathon.

I’ve debated whether to post this. My “story” is so tangential and quite frankly, lucky, compared with so many others who have been directly affected. And yet, I think that the degree to which the events at the Boston Marathon have affected people throughout the world is testament to our shared humanity and connection (and the marathon’s symbolism of that). And so I thought I might share my little thread in that fabric of unity.

On Monday morning, I went for a run. It was a perfect spring day—blue skies, flowering trees, a slight coolness to the air—and I thought, what a great day for the runners. In a few hours the Boston Marathon would start and I thought about how much better this year’s runners had it compared with last year’s. Last year’s runners had to endure the dangerous heat or choose to defer to this year. Deferring is no small thing; people come from all over the world and spend a ton of money in advance to be a part of this historic race, knowing full well that predicting weather ahead of time (sometimes even just an hour ahead of time) is a losing proposition. New England weather is fickle, no more so than in spring when you might have to battle sweltering heat and humidity or curl into yourself as frigid protection against icy sleet that can’t make up its mind if it’s rain or a snowstorm. Now, of course, mere weather concerns are wrapped in a golden nostalgia.

When I go into the office, I work in Copley Square, about a two-minute walk from the finish line, and had I gone in, I would have popped over to the finish line to experience the race firsthand. Luckily, I was working from home. I had the draft I was writing on my main monitor and to my right, on the smaller monitor, the live video for the marathon, along with Twitter, and I would glance over occasionally to see how Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan were doing.

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Marathon Monday is really special, obviously for runners and their friends and loved ones, but also for the community at large—just look at all the crowd support along the every mile of the course. The Boston Marathon is a symbol of such beauty, perseverence, and strength (among other things), and quite likely responsible for more resolutions than New Year’s Day, especially for runners. And so it was for me that day. Although my running has seriously fallen off in the last few years, I was determined on that beautiful Monday morning to run a marathon this fall and qualify so I could run this special event that happens every year in my own backyard. That’s no small goal considering how little I’ve been running in comparison to training, so who knows if it would actually happen. But just having a goal can be a catalyst for so much.

I was texting briefly with my sister who lives in the West about my determination, We have to do it next year!—she’s qualified a few times but has yet to run it—when I looked over at Twitter and saw the news that there was some sort of explosion. As is often the case in tragedies, details were murky at first, and then the photos starting posting and more details that made it clear someone had set a goal to create death and destruction at a marathon.

At a marathon?! Who does that??!!

In a flash, the Boston Marathon—along with all that it stands for—was tainted by some horrible person for who knows what reason. In a second, everything had changed.

Like so many, I’ve been in a dark state of shock and disbelief, and on the verge of tears since it happened. Clearly, I’m not alone in those feelings.

But today I woke up determined that I needed to snap out of it—at least a little—and do something physical to make myself feel better: And so I ran.

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I walked to the Boston Marathon course, around the Heartbreak Hill area. It was a long walk but I saved my actual running for the course since I’ve only been running short distances. When I got to the course, I said a prayer dedicating my run to all those who have been affected and tried to send out positive thoughts, and then I set off with the intention of holding onto that. Today is another absolutely gorgeous day, and it was great to be out and feeling the blood pumping through my body and the endorphins scrubbing away the dark inertia of sorrow. Then mid-run I felt a wash of gratitude that I’m alive and have the gift of a healthy body—things that many others don’t have right now, as a result of the bombs in Boston, not to mention all the other sad events happening all over the world. The bottom line is that cliché as it sounds, we only have right now, this moment. I don’t think I’ve ever been as conscious of that as I am right now.

As soon as I got home and read new developments (I can only take it in doses at this point), the sorrow returned. Of course it did. This cycle of sad, shocking events, and doing what we can to give and create joy within ourselves and putting it back out into the world—even if that positive energy is sadder and wiser—well, that’s life, right?

There’s been a amazing amount of people doing and being beautiful—Boston residents opening their homes to displaced runners, so many people giving blood that the Red Cross said “enough for now!”, the money raised for the One Fund, the proliferation of memorial runs (even all over the world), all the Boston sports teams contributing to healing. Etc. The Patton Oswald post didn’t go viral for no reason:

This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak….

The good outnumber [the evil], and we always will.

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