I’ve spent a lot of time staring at my computer screen, trying to figure out what I could possibly write about the bombings at the Boston Marathon. It would feel so wrong to not write anything, but I can’t seem to find the words to do any of it justice. This isn’t going to be eloquent, and it probably won’t be coherent. I know it won’t capture everything I want to say, but I have to say something.
I thought about waiting to write until I had processed more. But then I realized that no matter how long I think about this, I will never fully process it. Nothing will ever make the tragedy at the finish line less shocking. This was a senseless, cowardly act. An incomprehensible violation and a cruel assault.
I wasn’t running on Monday, but as a runner in general, one of the worst things about the attack, to me, is that it was aimed at the spectators. The people watching the race are the most selfless, loving, and supportive group and while obviously no one should have to face the horrors of what happened on Monday, it was especially cruel to target the people who were there purely out of love. Spectators aren’t just there on race day; they provide support throughout entire training cycles. They deal with us when we are hungry or cranky. They listen to us talk enthusiastically about paces and goals, at best, or just as likely, blisters and dry heaving. They understand when we flake on plans because of long runs, or long naps, and they forgive us when we do show up – unshowered and in sweatpants. They put up with us at our worst. They wake up early to battle large crowds and long days in order to see us at the culmination of all our training. They carry us, physically and emotionally, past the finish line. Then, when the race is over, they do it all again. Training to run a marathon is an exercise in perseverance and testing limits, not just for the runners, but for entire networks of friends and families, and I won’t even try to pretend that running is the bigger challenge. Mixed in with all the overpowering emotions I’ve felt about Monday, the most haunting thought is that if I had been running, my parents would have been at that finish line waiting for me. The fact that that’s not a “what if”, but a reality for so many people breaks my heart and brings me to tears every time. Jezebel said it better than I can, but it’s the spectators that truly make running so special.
Despite the anguish and the pain that won’t ever truly heal, the Marathon will go on. Stronger than ever, scars and all. The running community is tight knit and strong; even as people compete there is an overwhelming sense of camaraderie and support. As for Boston as a city, I’ve spent most of my adult life here and there is a fierce hometown pride that comes along with that dirty water. Boston does not just sit back and let itself be defeated.
At the expo on Sunday, Kathrine Switzer said that the more we run, the more fearless we become. To me, fearlessness is not the absence of fear, but the acknowledgment of it, and the strength to act in spite of it. All the stories from the aftermath of the bombings highlight courage and selflessness and truly epitomize the collective fearlessness that will help us band together and heal as best we can. I am so proud of my sport and of my city and so thankful for, and uplifted by, the outpouring of support coming from other communities and cities worldwide. On Sunday, swept up in the energy and excitement of the Marathon expo, I told my family that I don’t care how much work it takes, I will run Boston someday. Despite everything that has happened this week (or maybe even because of it?), I absolutely stand by that. Training plans are pinned up on my cube wall; Active is basically my homepage.
Until I’m actually at that starting line, I’ll be sending all my love to the people who were there, to all the people at the finish, and all the people affected in any way by this monstrous attack.
Stay strong, Boston. Be Fearless.