I won’t be able to make it through writing this without crying. I thought I had shed most of my tears yesterday when I was frantically trying to get in contact with friends in Boston and when I struggled to fall asleep last night with bloodstained images of some of my favorite streets playing on repeat in my mind. I was safely in Asheville yesterday, reminiscing about finishing last year and tracking friend’s bib numbers online, when my day flipped on its end.
But this post is about the incredible city I called home for four years and about the running community I am a part of.
Boston is so much more than stereotypes of Yankee northeasterners, so much more than Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins or Patriots fans, so much more than Dunkin Donut coffee drinkers or “lobstah” roll eaters. Sure it has its problems like any major city: public education issues, discrimination, crime, and annoyances with public transportation. But Boston is one of the most proud and resilient places I know. It values traditions and embraces newcomers. It has the historic Freedom Trail winding through the city and also hosts some of the greatest global minds in its numerous colleges and universities. It celebrates this historic race on a very American Patriot’s Day while inviting elite African and other international runners to compete on its point to point marathon course and welcomes runners and spectators from around the world. But among the historic national treasures and great universities, it is the people of Boston, whether born and raised there or adopted into the fold, that make Boston and the Boston Marathon the experience that it is.
Last year during the oppressively hot Boston Marathon I had this to say about the people of Boston:
“I want to thank the citizens of greater Boston for their complete amazingness with the heat. Fire stations had hoses and sprinkler tunnels set up but so did random houses! People were out with bags and buckets of ice that I filled my hat with before putting it back on my head, some were handing out cold orange slices. The only injuries I have today are three blisters on my feet from running through so much water and letting my socks and shoes get wet but I know a lot of people could be a lot worse off today without those hoses and buckets of cold water. The kindness and cheering of strangers really has to be one of the best parts of the Boston Marathon.”
With the stories that I’ve seen this morning on Buzzfeed and linked articles from Twitter and Facebook, I have to once again thank the citizens of Boston for their compassion. I have to thank them for the little things like water, juice, snacks, phones, phone chargers, and bathrooms, and for the bigger things like a place to stay or rides to various places around the city. And I have to thank all of the people who ran towards the blasts. As President Obama said in his statement: “Boston police, fire fighters and first responders as well as the National Guard responded heroically and continue to do so as we speak. It’s a reminder that so many Americans serve and sacrifice on our behalf every single day without regard to their own safety, in dangerous and difficult circumstances and we salute all those who assisted in responding to quickly and professionally to this tragedy.”
Boston: Thank you.
Every runner I know thanks you.
Runners know how to push through physical pain, even mental pain, but pain due to an event like this is not something we’ve prepared for. We are a tribe, whether blasting through with six minute miles or using a run/walk method to get us through, and this affected all of us whether we were there or not. Our tribe and families were attacked yesterday on a street dedicated to celebrating our athletic achievements. I am heartbroken for many reasons, one being that some of my friends did not get to experience the particular achievement of celebrating across that finish line yesterday. But we are tough, and we are resilient, and those friends will race again.
A friend who was running’s response:
I know there were over 30 deaths due to bombings in Iraq yesterday, I know there was a destructive earthquake in Iran today with deaths reported, I know a gold mine collapsed killing over a dozen people in Ghana today, and I know Venezuela is deteriorating into chaos due to its recent election, not to mention plenty of other international crises going on around the globe.
But yesterday, my former home, a street where I had experienced tears of triumph while crossing the marathon finish line, and where friends were watching their loved ones or running themselves, was attacked, and a joyous celebration descended into fear and tragedy.
I will run a race this weekend and cross the finish line with Boston pride.
The people of Boston are resilient. Runners are resilient.
This will not stop us from doing what we love.
So today I will run to simply celebrate running.