After Boston, Our Race Goes On
By: Matt Reno
I wrote this piece on my own blog last year, wide awake in the early morning following the Boston Marathon bombing. A year later, I thought I'd revisit my initial thoughts as I also reflect on how much stronger Boston and the running community have become since that horrible day.
The tragic events at yesterday’s Boston Marathon have left me shaken like I’m sure many across the country have been since the news broke. I feel connected to the events in several ways, as I'm sure many of us do.
As a Massachusetts native, I feel sadness and anger that someone used one of my home state’s greatest athletic competitions to attack innocent people. I grew up two hours from Boston, so it was more of a special trip than a place I frequented growing up. Still, every time I go back, I feel at home rather than like a tourist. I watched a live stream of the marathon up until the men’s race was won and felt a sense of comfort at being able to see the city streets and major attractions even though I was many miles away. That comfort turned to fear as I heard the news, as a place I love, filled with people I love, had been attacked. Never before had I simultaneously longed to be there but was glad to be so far away.
As a runner, this event will no doubt leave a lasting impression on our sport. That tiny feeling of fear I've had to work to banish to the back of my mind during every plane ride I've taken since late 2001 will now be creeping up every time I run a race in a big city. I’m sure I won’t be alone in feeling that apprehension. I’m also sure I won’t be alone in persisting despite that feeling. We runners are defiant, constantly pushing our bodies when our minds say, “maybe we shouldn't.” Why stop now? Of course, I can’t speak for all runners. I wasn't there in Boston to witness the horror. It’s possible some have been scarred physically or mentally enough to keep them away from racing forever. I hope that even those who can’t bear to approach another finish line are able to find something that brings them the same joy that running has. The rest of us will not judge your decision. Instead, we’ll run in your honor.
As a human being, I am saddened by this event, but to paraphrase John Stewart’s post 9-11 monologue, I grieve, but I don’t despair. One, two, maybe a small group of terrorists set off those bombs at the finish line. That’s nothing compared to the number of people who responded at the scene, who donated blood, or who helped spread information to those in need. Last night, as I scrolled through my Facebook news feed and read an outpouring of love and support, I saw posts from the two people I knew who had run Boston. They were both pulled off the course just miles before the finish. They had trained so long, worked so hard for the enormous sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a grueling 26.2 miles, and it was taken from them as they were so close to their goal. Did they complain? No. Instead they expressed their gratitude at being home safe and having raised money for two excellent charities: Dana Farber and the Ace Bailey Children’s Foundation.
That is why I don’t despair. No matter how bad the situation is, there are always people willing to help, willing to rebuild, willing to make the world a better place even when that seems like an unattainable goal. That is the human spirit and the runner’s spirit. If those who planted the bombs thought they could somehow take either of those away, they greatly underestimated our endurance.