Did you hear about the Boston Marathon this year? I am sure you have, it is plastered all over the news: 2 bombs went off at the finish around 4:09, killing at least 3 people and wounding many, many more. When I first read the news I sank. Really, honestly, I sank into myself with a feeling of confusion and mounting dread. It was painful to read. Over the past few years I have read a lot of disheartening news stories happening in the United States, and each of them were tragic in their own way, but none of them hit me with a wall of emotion like this one has.
First of all I would like to say that nothing is KNOWN about the bombs yet. Words such as terrorism are leaking out, which, what else could it be? But the word ‘terrorism’ in the United States is loaded with ethnic and religious assumptions which renders the word less than helpful in times like this. Already newspapers and websites are posting content that points to “a dark-skinned man with an accent,” when the police have released nothing regarding who might have placed the bombs or why. I recommend to save your hate and save your judgement until more information is acquired. Actually, even then I recommend saving your hate and judgement, forever, and instead really just seeking understanding and healing.
As a marathon runner, I am shocked at this. Marathons, to me, are the safest place on earth. Runners spend months training for a marathon. During that training period, unless they are a very elite athlete, they are mostly on their own. Running 30-40 km all alone requires some creativity and resilience. For me tactics have included mapping out routes where I was safe from dogs, from predatory men, from weather, from vehicles who don’t respect my sport. It includes having to carry fuel and always knowing where the next stop for water might be. It is an exhaustive practice, not just because of the physical activity required, but because it is a somewhat dangerous sport that is embarked on alone. If you fall, from exhaustion or a tree root, chances are there will be no one around to help you up. If you get out too far and can’t make the run home, you have to walk it. But then, after all of the training, there is race day and it is an amazing reward. On race day you are babied. You are taken complete care of. Regular food and water supply, wet sponges, a warm wrap and a massage waiting for you at the end. For once, in many many months, you can just run. And the finish line at the end of a marathon is not 42.2km away from the beginning. It is hundreds of kilometers. It is hundreds of hours, buckets of sweat, days of questioning yourself. To have the sacredness of that race, the safety and support of a marathon taken away at the finish of all places, is unbelievable to me.
Running is such a peaceful sport, taken on alone it harms no one except yourself. Marathon running is more than that though. It is a monument to the success and endurance of humanity. I cannot imagine who or why anyone would even consider spoiling such a beautiful thing.
I did not finish my last marathon. My training was poor, and I was sick for two weeks before the marathon. The plane ride to France was the final straw and I was coughing and unable to sleep for two days before the marathon. I made it on schedule to kilometer 30, but, being unable to speak French and let the race coordinators know that we had every intention of finishing around 540, we were scooped up in the trailing van. Not making it to the finish line is tragic, and I felt an immense sense of guilt. However, the experience of the race was still there, and still a positive one because of the way that others supported and cared for me on that race day, by playing music and offering food, and eventually a ride to the end. I felt like I wasn’t alone in a solitary event. I cannot imagine that finish being taken away by anyone. It is such a shameful, terrible action.