Thoughts on Boston

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As a bit of a news hound and a believer in NPR, (Ryan calls it my religion) I’ve been hearing many different perspectives on the Boston Marathon bombing. But rather than listening intently, it’s been difficult for me to not turn off the coverage as soon as I hear the topic. It’s just so disturbing that these random acts of violence are making their way into more and more places that embody the goodness of our society.

Whether you’re a runner or not, you know how special the finish line is at any race. When I think back to the finish lines I’ve crossed or been at to cheer on the runners, it hurts even closer to home:

  • At my first race ever, the Beijing International Half Marathon, I crossed wanting to pinch myself. It seemed wonderfully impossible that I’d just done it – after never running more than ¾ of a mile, I’d taken a few months to train myself to run 13.1. It was a moment that opened my eyes to the idea that nothing was really impossible.
  • My mom and I ran the Women’s Half in Nashville. The finish line was halfway up a hill downtown, and my mom, who’d ran/walked the entire way with no trouble or stress, began sprinting towards it. Uphill. As we crossed, she threw back her head and made a “yes!” noise. She’d just finished her first-ever major race, 13.1 miles. For me, it wasn’t about finishing, it was about spending that much time with my mom, months in training and hours on the course itself.
  • My first marathon (Presque Isle Marathon in Erie) was tough – A few miles from the end, I stopped to walk, and a girl about my age passed me. Watching her get smaller in the distance, I was inspired to begin running again, passing her not too much farther on. Then I stopped, she caught up again, and I turned to her and said, “listen – I don’t want to slow down and neither do you. Want to run together?” So we did for the last two miles. As the finish line came into sight, not saying a word to each other, we started feeling the friendly competition urge kick in, and raced each other. I finished feeling strong. She congratulated me on “winning” afterwards, and I thanked her profusely for pushing me. I’ll never see her again, but won’t forget her or her generosity of spirit anytime soon.

With such beautifully vivid memories of past finish lines, it’s easy to imagine that runners, families, and friends were experiencing a similar emotional experience when the blast happened. That’s what makes it so difficult; it feels like an attack on the core of human goodness.

It seems that we have some time before we know details about how and why. But in this moment of uncertainty, we can draw a teaching from the athlete’s spirit; the voice you hear when you think you can’t go one step farther – you’re too hot, too tired, too dehydrated, too unmotivated. Then, out of nowhere, you hear it from within, small and strong: you can. And you do.

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