This post was supposed to be a post about how we started our morning taking the T to Boston College. About how we walked from the T station to Starbucks where we staked out a table large enough to accommodate two sheets of poster board so that we could make cheer signs for our friend Scott. I wanted to write about how the line was so long in Starbucks and about how those waiting in line giggled when they read our silly signs. This post was supposed to be about what an incredible spot we had to watch the elite men and women run past us at Cleveland Circle. About how we crossed the street and stood outside Cityside Restaurant peering through the open windows to watch the elite women cross the finish line on television. After reading the Runner’s World article about Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher (and having just seen them run past), we were excited to see who would come out on top. After that, we walked to the top of Heartbreak Hill, silly signs in tow, with the goal of bringing a little humor to the runners after the grueling climb at mile 20. We stood and watched. We went crazy as our friend Scott went past. Once he went by, we talked about how we needed to get moving to get the finish area so we could meet Scott. For whatever reason, we hung around a while longer. Runners were amused by our sign, I mean laughing out loud at mile 20, so we lingered.
Our train was evacuated at the stop before we reached the finish area. We exited the station and had no idea what had happened. It was eerily quiet. The only sound I remember was the helicopters overhead. The race was still going, but was halted within just a few minutes. Our phones populated with text messages asking us if we were safe. We still weren’t exactly sure what was happening. Details started to emerge. Two bombs had exploded near the finish area.
Whereas we had excitedly crowded the open windows at Cityside Restaurant to watch the first marathoners finish just a few hours earlier, we now found ourselves congregated around a bar window looking inside at tvs showing that same finish line, now littered with debris and injured spectators.
It’s impossible to describe the events that happened that afternoon – the fear, the uncertainty, the sadness. To be honest, I felt more like I was on a movie set than situated in reality, but then again everything was also so acutely real – the runners trembling and searching for loved ones, the tearful reunions when they found one another. More ambulances than I have ever seen, lined up and then in minutes, each ambulance was occupied, sirens sounding and driving off to a hospital. The selflessness of hotel workers, police officers, race volunteers – lending whatever they had be it a blanket, fluids or a cell phone.
I am profoundly saddened. I find my mind drifting back to the events of that afternoon, and it feels like they can’t fit inside my head. They don’t make sense; I don’t want them to be true.
It’s now been 72 hours since the bombing and already the running community in the Baltimore area is organizing races for this weekend to benefit those affected by the Boston Marathon bombing. I find this to be particularly poignant, because this is exactly what we do – we, the running community, come together. In the face of a tragic event that literally sought to create violent separation, we create venues for togetherness, community, solidarity and healing.
We come together to race and run. In so doing, we talk, we listen, we cheer one another to PRs and we comfort one another through injuries. And, perhaps most importantly of all, we accompany one another. We accompany one another through events that leave us breathless with pain and we accompany one another over the grueling terrain that life sometimes presents us. In the aftermath of something so destructive, let’s find ways to huddle with our community, to accompany the heartbroken and to come together to do whatever we can help shoulder the burden of those suffering.
I found these words by Kristin Armstrong to be such a meaningful call to action:
Today our running community, our family, was attacked. No matter where we live, what we do, how fast we are, what our dreams are, what we are running from, or where our miles lead – we are a running family. We mark miles, we ache, we try, we fail, we triumph and we endure. I don’t know if our family was the target, or if the splendor of the event or venue was the intended backdrop – but it doesn’t really matter. We are hurting. We are wounded. We are wondering. We fear. We grieve.
The ultimate goal of any terrorist freak is to cause division. Because division causes weakness, and weakness yields another target, and another target is an opportunity for evil and destruction to prevail. Even if the target is the brokenness of the human heart, the distortion of dreams, the invasion of fear.
So I have this to say today, on Patriot’s Day. We cannot undo the evil that was done. But we can inhibit the goal of division. Let’s do that. Let’s not give them the pleasure of our division, the foothold of our futility.
Let’s instead do what runners do best. Let’s be strong. Let’s be patient as information comes in. Let’s pace ourselves. Let’s endure. Let’s close the gap and tighten up the pack. Let’s recover together.
The road ahead is long. But little do they know, we’re good with that.