I have never run a marathon, let alone tried to qualify for Boston. I was not in Boston today, nor were any of my friends. And yet, my heart breaks for the events that unfolded there today. I feel shaken. I feel angry. I feel as if my close friends were attacked. I feel as if my family were in danger. I feel like something was stolen from me. Why does it feel so personal when I don’t have a personal connection to Boston?
Because I am a runner.
I have never run Heartbreak Hill, but I have hit the wall at different points in different races, fighting for the finish.
I have never run one of the majors with my family on hand, but I have counted on them to give me strength through countless running events that met my own definition of “major”.
I have never run as a contender in any running event, but I have worked my butt off to realize goals that were, in my world, as big and impossible as winning the Boston Marathon.
I have cheered for my running friends, motivated others to start running or keep at it, high-fived random strangers – fellow runners – as we have passed on the sidewalks like ships in the night. I have challenged myself, set an example for my kids, made new friends, dreamed new dreams and found out what I am really made of through running.
I have experienced the simple purity of racing to beat yourself, to create a new personal best. There is something beautiful and authentic about race days – running to be the best version of yourself, lifted by the strength of your running friends by your side, and the support of your family at the finish line.
There are highs and lows in every race, and often you are your own worst enemy. This is the test you pass as you run beyond those nagging self-doubts toward the medal that awaits, representing all that you sacrificed and poured into achieving that goal.
Today, runners were not their own worst enemies. And running for the inevitable finish line, that always appears if you just hang in there long enough, was not inevitable. Instead, the events that unfolded at the finish line were unthinkable.
Thousands of runners had yet to finish. These were the runners who are like us: they run for the love of running; they run to set an example for their kids; they run to challenge themselves; they run for their health, both physical and mental. They are not professional runners, this is not their life’s work…this is their passion. Running Boston doesn’t happen by accident and, I know from personal experience, that getting to any start line doesn’t happen without a support system.
So I don’t need to know these runners to feel like they are friends. I know their stories because they are my own. Their families were cheering as mine always does. They were living a dream that turned into a nightmare.
Something was taken from us today. Our community – such a positive, welcoming, supportive and encouraging group – is heart broken. As we should be. And maybe it resonates louder for us because we are the dreamers and the doers, the optimists who believe the glass is half full, the people who go for a run when the going gets tough, and always look on the bright side.
Today the going got rough and there was nowhere to run. But already the running community is uniting. Runners crossed the finish line today and kept running – to the hospitals to donate blood. Because this is who we are. And tomorrow, runners everywhere will wear a race t-shirt so that, no matter where we are in the world, we can stand together, united and in support of OUR community. And, even in these early hours, I know there is more we can do…and I know just as surely that we will rise to the occasion.
But in this heavy moment, our hearts are in Boston where we can only wish the heartbreak ended on Heartbreak Hill.