Monday, April 15, 2013

A special kind of sadness - Boston Marathon 2013

This morning I received a text about the Boston Marathon.  I got online and watched a video of the explosions.  There was the familiar finish line, there were the intrepid runners, there were the happy families and fans - and then someone had decided that morning to kill those people.

The picture that is sticking with me is of an older runner in an orange singlet lying on his back in Boylston Street.  I'm not sure he was injured, but he's clearly in shock.  Four hours and nine minutes - not a fast time, but not terrible - he was getting through the race, most likely just happy to be done.  Here he was accomplishing a lifetime goal, and then suddenly he's on his knocked on his back in the middle of chaos.

It's a special kind of sadness for me.  This particular incident resonates with me.  I know it will resonate with so many people.

I accidentally qualified for the Boston Marathon and ran it in 2008.  I realized that I would never qualify again, and committed to go.  I didn't take the race seriously, and didn't train.  Like the guy in the orange singlet, I was checking off a life list entry.  And, probably just like him, I was swept up by the experience.

About five minutes before the start, the sun came out.  It was suddenly beautiful and warm.  I went out far too fast - I think my first mile was under six minutes.  Then I realized that I was running in essentially a huge celebration of the human spirit, I would never be there again, and set about to experience this thing I had joined. 

Everyone was happy.  It was amazing and uplifting – the entire course was lined with thousands of cheering people.  I started seeing all the landmarks that I don’t recall specifically reading about, but all runners know by heart – the girls at Wellesley College, the Johnny Kelley statue, Heartbreak Hill.  It was a holiday - a holiday in honor of our founders.  People were off of work.  People were drinking beer.  There was a Red Sox game.  Here in a city mad about sports and tradition, we were living and breathing participants in that tradition.

I slowed way down right at the finish.  I really wanted to enjoy this finish.  I had decided during the race that it would be my last marathon for awhile - there would be no way to top this experience.

I got my little medal (from a smiling person) and my bag of clothes (from another smiling person).  I was in a mild warm daze - sunburned, tired, and happy.   The sky was glowing blue and cool angles of sunlight bounced off the tall buildings.  An endless line of runners were crossing the line, falling into the arms of their friends and families, and moving on through the city.  The announcer's voice bounced around in fading echoes.  Not knowing what else to do, I walked around the scene taking it all in.

Too soon, I got back on the subway to head out of town.  I shouldn't have done it.  I should have stayed downtown and basked in that sun - sunburn or no sunburn.  I should have had a beer and talked to people.  It was a special day.  Instead, I immediately started coming down - a guy on the subway tried to tell me about how many marathons he had run, and soon I was back at the campground and out of the energy.

I found that energy the next day again on the plane - it was full of gimpy finishers in their blue and yellow shirts - and continued all the way home.  Then it was gone again.  The closest I came to that feeling was running pretty well/taking in the good energy at the Moab Red Hot race.  I'll probably run a marathon again someday to see if I can find it again.  

But today, someone desecrated the Boston Marathon.  Someone decided to kill people who wanted to come together and honor the human spirit.  It's terrible for the dead and injured, terrible for their friends and families, and terrible for everyone who has ever joined in on the feeling created by that special day in April.  It is a sad day.  I am going for a run and will think of the dead and injured and their loved ones.    

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