I am a runner. I have run in snow, rain, wind and hail and have I have run countless 5Ks, 10Ks and 8 half marathons. I have completed 3 full marathons and will be participating in 2 more this year. I have logged hundreds, if not thousands, of miles during training runs and I have pushed my body to its limits in an attempt to see how far this sport can take me. I have survived injuries, black toe nails and vomited my way to the finish line during my 2nd marathon. While my friends and family sleep in on Saturday mornings, I can be found with my running girlfriends racking up the miles in preparation for yet another test of strength and endurance.
I will never qualify for the Boston Marathon.
And yet, I run.
The running community is like no other group I’ve ever seen. Runners support, push and compete against one another and to go to a local race is like going to a family reunion. Laughter, heckling, good natured teasing can be heard against the back drop of music and the flutter of last minute preparations by the volunteers. Nerves and tensions are high, lines for porta potties are long and last minute jitters threaten to keep us from taking that first step off the starting line. Families come to cheer their loved one who is running their first 5K and crowds gather to watch the runners do what most people view as “crazy”. The atmosphere at a race, whether in a local town or big city, is one of fun, excitement and promise. It is virtually impossible not to get caught up in the energy.
I came to the sport of running late in life and while my journey as a runner is not as long and distinguished as other runners, the running community has welcomed me with open arms. I’ve met other runners who not only understand my need to run but also feed it with their experience, advice and challenge. I’ve been inspired by this group of people who literally embodies the true essence of the human spirit. Runners challenge their minds, treat their bodies like temples and are the first to offer help for those in need. On any given weekend, you can find a 5K benefiting just about any cause imaginable. And, one look at the crowd of 2012 NYC marathoners donning their bibs during the clean up efforts after Hurricane Sandy proves that we runners know when to leap into action. We run strong, not scared.
The Boston Marathon Bombing cut me to my core. In the anguished faces on TV, I saw myself. I saw the faces of my children waiting for me at the finish line and I saw the panic that my running friends would have had if they couldn’t find me. I saw the horror of the race officials and thought of all of the hundreds of volunteers I have run by in my running career, those have who have come to hand me water or give me words of encouragement in my final moments of running glory. I thought of the first time marathoner who put her shoes on yesterday morning never dreaming that her moment of glory would end in such unspeakable tragedy. Mostly, I saw my beloved community broken and the happy place I rely on changed forever.
My running comrades and community will mourn and we will make our races safer. We will demand justice and we will seek answers. But above all, we will continue to run because that’s who we are and what we do. And we will do it all one step at a time, together and united.