I keep thinking back to my first marathon (Rock ‘n Roll – 1998) and remembering how exhilarated I was as I crossed the finish line. The months of training, the sore knees, the sweat-stained clothes, the sacrificed Friday nights in the name of early Saturday morning runs – they were all worth it for that euphoria at the finish. Each run brought me closer to knowing my truest self and the journey culminated in that grand finale on race day.
The finish line of a race is sacred space, and after the images of the explosions at the Boston finish, I’m not sure I’ll ever again view one in quite the same way.
I don’t know why the bomber chose a marathon finish line as the target. This violent act could have transpired anywhere – at a shopping mall, an amusement park, a busy train station – but it didn’t. This one happened at a race, and so the images of those runners in their numbers and singlets and Mylar blankets will be inextricably tied to our memories of this event.
There are as many perspectives on this tragedy as there are observers, and I won’t pretend to speak for all of them. But for those of us who are runners, there is one simple thing that we can do to honor those who lost lives and limbs yesterday.
We. Can. Run.
Lace up those shoes and hit the road. Run for the people who finished, elated, only to hear the explosions moments or minutes or hours later.
Run for the people who were in exactly the right place at exactly the wrong time and were injured or killed.
Run for the runners who never got to finish this race for which they’d trained and planned and sacrificed, those who were urgently yet heart-breakingly redirected away from the finish to ensure their safety.
Run for the event organizers and volunteers who lived and breathed this race all year long to make it an unforgettable celebration of the sport and of community and of health.
Run for the spectators who brought their signs and silly hats and cheered till they were hoarse and clapped till their hands hurt. If you’re a runner, you know the power those spectators hold, the energy they provide. Too many of those injured and killed yesterday were spectators; God bless each and every one of them.
We can’t erase what happened yesterday. We can’t even prevent it from happening again. But what we can do and must do is to resist being driven away from races and sporting events and amusement parks and zoos and shopping malls and airports and cities…out of fear. We just can’t let fear break us. Instead, we must heal.
So, if you’re a runner, then run. Run alone, or with friends, or better yet, in a race. Reclaim the sport for the exhilarating, uplifting, connected experience that it has always been and must continue to be.
And if you’re not a runner, perhaps you can find a race in your area in the coming weeks and sign up to volunteer. See what each of those people affected by this senseless act of violence already knew – that running heals and that each finish line is sacred space. You’ll see.