April 15th was already going to be a hard day. After a couple of months of long hours, and the last two weeks stretching into the 70-80 hour arena, I was beat. Though I wasn't working my body at all, I was fatigued to the core. My heart actually felt tired.
And then the news came. My friend sent me a text, which sent me to the web to see the story. Two bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I couldn't spend more than a few minutes away from the ticking clock of tax form deadlines, so the horror and questions lay pushed to a corner of my mind. I didn't have time to let it sink in.
It did on the drive home. Sorrow, anger, determination, all the shit that runs through your heart and mind in times of tragedy. Almost out of reflex, I queued up the finishing songs of my marathon mix and tried to comprehend what had happened. How it could have happened. What kind of “human” being could do such a thing? And to what end?
I had already planned on a run the next morning. I hadn't run in weeks, and the reward for all those hours was going to be time outside, time to myself, time on my feet. I punched up the marathon mix again and headed out. It wasn't long before the tears were flowing. For the dead, for the wounded, for Sierra, for the fatigue of soul I was experiencing. It was all so wrong. There could be no explanation, but we are all left searching for answers in the madness. I had felt such anger on the drive home the night before, but this morning it was only sorrow and release.
I have written many times about how special the marathon is. The start line is a great mix of all that is right with humanity – dedication and camaraderie, the glow of health and inspiration, the thousands of different reasons and paths that brought all these people to the same place, to achieve a similar goal in different ways, to challenge themselves to be better.
All along the journey, far beyond the 26.2 miles of race day, there are people at your side making it all possible. But on race day in particular, they have sacrificed their own plans to stand on the sidelines to cheer you on. Strangers and loved ones to bear witness to a parade of transformation. Even if they don’t entirely understand the motivation to do what we do, they are there to help us make it happen. For hours and miles, carrying us to the next corner and over the next hill, and then to carry us even further when we don’t think we can go on.
And the finish line – the finish line is a celebration like no other. The triumph over adversity, the unbending will to carry on, the release of joy and the vanquishing of demons. In the past, one of the few things that would make me tear up was watching someone cross their own finish line. It is a life changing event for many, and there is no mistaking that when you see it.
And then the two bombs went off and violently ripped it all away. Ranking of tragedies is a perverse exercise, but we seem to do it anyway. The killing of children at Sandy Hook hit us harder than the other killings that have grown all too common. The youth and innocence of the children made that much more offensive. The bombings in Boston have struck a different chord, with such mindless hatred and violence at a moment of joy and triumph for so many.
I will be on the start line of another major American marathon in October. I won't be standing on the start line to prove anything to the terrorists. I don't want to give them any place on that day or any other. I will be there to celebrate a friend's "last" stab at the distance, and I will be there for all the normal reasons - to celebrate life, my good fortune of health, and the kinship of good friends taking on a challenge. Every marathon, every challenge, has meaning all to its own.
Again, I won't be running to prove anything to anyone else, much less to the worst of mankind. The ones I will carry with me for those 26.2 miles are the ones who stood on the sidelines, cheering on friends and strangers alike. Who only intended to sacrifice their morning, their day off, but ended up sacrificing their life. All to be there to support the everyman in their struggle to break through to a better version of themselves. Wonderful people, supporting the quest to find extraordinary in the average.
As another person wrote in the article If you are losing faith in humanity, go out and watch a marathon, "the finish line at a marathon is a small marvel of fellowship." That is what I celebrate. That is what run for. Like every other early morning, or any other evening slogging through the rain, I am trying to make a better version of me, and by proxy a better world. F the people who want to destroy that.