Last year, I trained for a half-marathon.
That’s as far as I’ve ever run. Almost every morning, I left the house before dark to arrive just as the sun rose over a flat neighborhood, or a mostly empty greenway. Evenings, I spent much the same – joining more than one running group, twisting around neighborhoods I didn’t know, on tracks where elementary school girls practiced their cheerleading routines, and sometimes on treadmills on the second floor of a hot gym. My stash of dry-wick clothing quadrupled during that time; as did my on-person supply of Band-Aids, Ace Bandages, compression socks, bobby pins and hair ties. I’ve spent a lot of money on shoes. And race-entry fees. And a little watch that will tell me exactly how far and how fast I’ve gone.
For a long time, I couldn’t articulate why I ran. Medals and shirts and race bibs make good souvenirs, but race entry fees usually cover that. It’s something I’ve wondered if other runners feel, this inability to adequately sum up the why. Are we all born with the same seemingly innate drive to endure or masochism that compels us to run day after day? The people asking for articulation are most often the friends and family members who bear witness to these repeated endeavors. The same friends and family who make home-made signs and cheer on the roadside, who have to wait until after your run to go out and try to sympathize as we carry on conversations whilst foam-rolling or suggesting pasta for dinner, again.
The Boston marathon is the holy grail of racing. That’s the phrase you hear most often because it’s a mantra for many runners, despite the likelihood they’ll ever make it to the starting line. It’s the only marathon in the country that you have to qualify to even enter, and because so many people still qualify, the restrictions occasionally get tighter. To have qualified this year, I would’ve had to already have completed a marathon (in the last year) in at least 3 hours and 35 minutes. That’s an 8:12/mi pace. I might be able to maintain that for a mile. With hard-core training, I might even be able to sustain it for a half-marathon. Even if you’re a “charity runner” (read: you don’t have to qualify) – to make it through 26.2 miles is something of a miracle.
Bigger than the run, any run, is the support on the way. Those friends and family who never simply cheer for their runner only, but all runners. The Daily Beast reported earlier today that of the victims at Boston Medical Center, “All critical people were spectators.” Those killed and/or injured were there for the sole purpose of celebrating others. I’ve seen photos in the press coverage that I wish I hadn’t. But this is the reality. As a runner, as someone still hopeful for the future, and as a fellow human being, the attack at the Boston marathon was emotional and personal. I pray for the victims, for the runners, for the friends and family, for the people of Boston and for all of us as we try to make sense of the senseless. I’ve seen a line from Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted a lot today, and I like it, so I’ll end with it as well: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Here are a few articles about yesterday:
+“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon” / WaPo / Ezra Klein
+The People Who Watch Marathons / Jezebel / Erin Gloria Ryan
+“How the Boston Marathon helped the fights for equal rights“ / New Republic / Nora Caplan-Bricker
+Boston Children’s Hospital Amazon Wishlist