…And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. – Hebrews 12:1
I’m not a religious person and don’t take stock in scripture, even though I studied religion in college. I believe in the power of love and compassion, but I also believe in the ultimate corruptibility and fallibility of man/woman and therefore don’t take religious texts seriously as anything more than literature and morality tales. It is for this reason that I am shocked at the effect those words from scripture had on me when President Obama quoted them last week.
And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
In my off-road half marathon on Saturday (the Morris Broadband Half Marathon at DuPont State Forest) I was emotionally drained and not feeling mentally prepared to take on this tough course. Monday felt like months ago and I spent Friday with one ear tuned to NPR all day, waiting in tense suspense as events unfolded in Watertown, MA. I was happy that I got to go to sleep feeling some sense of closure on the week/day, but I was completely spent mentally. I got up to at least try this race, even if I had to walk parts of it, I was determined to finish- for my friends and running community in Boston who could not. For Team RWB and for Tufts and the Tufts Marathon Team.
I was utterly inspired and in awe of the Boston and running communities over the past seven days. There was an outpouring of love and compassion and resistance to the attack of fear that was attempted on us all. I used that inspiration, and that quote from scripture, as my mantra at this race I was not prepared for.
It was a beautiful course in DuPont State Forest – where I could pretend to be Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games since this is where District 12 scenes were filmed – that took me past a waterfall and around a small lake on a gorgeously clear and crisp morning. I started slow, getting used to the rocks and dirt under my cold feet (it was a chilly morning.) I let fellow runners pass me, not worried about racing, just focusing on running free and easy. I ran in near silence for the first five miles, just listening to my breath up and down hills, never stopping, never walking, really only speaking when I thanked the volunteers who were out on the course wearing their best blue and yellow and their Boston support stickers. I needed that silence. And then I needed to talk to someone. It is amazing how therapeutic running alone can be and how therapeutic running with a ‘friend’ can be. I ran for a couple of very pleasant miles beside a young woman running her first race longer than 8 miles, then at the small lake, I took back off on my own, feeling good. I’m not sure what clicked in during those first seven miles but I felt fantastic over the second half of the course, putting in a negative split on the day.
On a particular descent around mile 9 I glimpsed a scenic lake that opened up a flood of emotions. My breath caught in my throat, my eyes teared up, my shoulders unclenched and my heart stopped weighing so heavily in my body. For some unexpected reasons- the trail underfoot, the physical exertion, the lake view below me, the birds chirping away, the sunny sky and the cool spring air- my body let go of all the tension it had been holding since Monday. I didn’t let it all go, but my heart that had absorbed so much pain and compassion over the previous week, so much tragedy and love, was able to lighten just a little. My heart was able to let go of the pain and tragedy and let the compassion and love remain. And I will try to keep that feeling for as long as I can.
As runners we will continue to run with endurance, but this is just the start to a very long race.