It started with a disappointing race. The details are meaningless now; I had hoped for a five minute PR, but struggled with cramps and a cranky hip just after halfway, and I barely managed a PR at all. I crossed the line in tears, and fell into my Fiancé’s arms, heartbroken.
But then it got much, much worse. A few short hours later those tears seemed like the silliest thing ever. And my heart would break many more times over before the day would end.
When we left lunch, my family and I tried to board the T near the finish line. It was closed; no one knew why. There were rumors of some threat on the T, and we saw police car after police car drive by. Firetrucks came too, but no ambulances, so I was comforted that perhaps no one was hurt. As we walked up the street to another T station, my sister sent a desperate text: “Please let me know you are alright, heard there was an explosion.” Then the ambulances started coming. I got an email news alert simultaneously, and when I read the headline, I crumbled to the sidewalk in a fresh set of tears. Explosions at the finish line—no one knew why/how many hurt/what to do. Fortunately I was able to get a few texts through to my sister and brother who got the news out to family and friends that we were okay. My teammates started an email chain, and quickly almost everyone responded. One teammate, unable to get through as the cell phone towers went out, wouldn’t be heard from for a few anxious hours. We were comforted knowing she had finished long before, and had no reason to be near the finish anymore. We kept walking, trying to figure out a way out of the city, and the news kept getting worse. As we tried to hail cabs, we found out people had died. More tears were flowing, real tears for people’s lives and limbs lost, lives forever changed.
We couldn’t make it to my parent’s car to get our bags, so we left them behind and headed to the airport. At the airport, we saw the footage for the first time. I struggled to watch it. I could not, and still cannot, believe what happened. I feel ridiculous for having cried over some silly time in a silly race. The events of yesterday quickly put that in perspective. Life, family, and friends are so much more important. Who cares about a running race?
But that’s what makes me so angry. This race, this event, is not offensive to anyone. It is a celebration of hard work, of hope through adversity, of triumph over diseases and tragedies just like this one. Spectators line the entire 26.2 mile course, standing for hours, cheering for strangers. There is no ill will; from the starting corral to the finish line, everyone is bonded together as they run, as if they have been friends forever. I don’t think there is a friendier environment anywhere. Why would someone ruin that? The runners yesterday are people who have spent years trying to qualify, who have worked hard to become better athletes for a chance to compete at Boston. Other runners raise millions for charities—supporting cancer research, veterans, and victims of Newtown. The spectators yesterday are those people that stand by their sides, giving these runners the encouragement to keep going, to keep up the training, and to keep fighting through the whole grueling race to the finish line. The fact that an event like this, a celebration like this, would be targeted is unreal. The fact that the spectators—our constant support team—took the brunt of it is not right. A day later and safe at home, I am in shock this happened.
In the airport, we met others who shared the story of where they had been and how fate had saved them. Two parents talked about their daughter, how she was set to run but an injury prevented her from being on the starting line. Instead they watched from near the finish line. They left before the explosions, but the daughter said she would never run a marathon again, not after this.
I’ll admit, I was thinking the same thing—even before the day changed forever. I was selfishly moping, thinking I had spent a year working hard to improve my marathon time and had only come away with only 30 seconds. I was thinking how hard the race was, and how I didn’t know how I’d be able to do another one, faster. I was thinking the same thing many marathoners think at the end of the race, how that will be the last one. Time, healed legs, and encouraging supporters will eventually change our minds, but that’s the important thing: we will get to make that decision ourselves, in our own time. No terrorist should be able to take that away from us. We cannot live in fear. We will band together, as runners always do on our way to a far off finish line, and we will pick ourselves up and get through this together. We can’t let these terrorists get what they want—to ruin our celebrations or crush our spirits.
I am moved by the generosity already exhibited. The influx of donations crashed the Red Cross’s websites, their blood banks are full, donations are being offered from around the country in the form of food, coffee, places to stay. The running community has always been a supportive one, and it will continue to support us all, even when a tragedy crumbles us.
Dream big and pray for Boston,