Preface: I need to write about this. Bear with me.
I’m a former journalist and television producer. My ears perk up at the words “breaking news,” like a dog who just heard the words “car ride.” This behavior is ingrained in my being.
I am also a runner.
When my husband texted me this afternoon with the news, I was sitting in a session at the Digital Marketing for Business Conference at the Raleigh Convention Center. After I figured it out that it wasn’t some sort of sick joke, my attention span was shot. I should probably apologize to the session speakers because I don’t think I absorbed anything they said. I was too busy wearing down my already dying cell phone battery trying to piece together the story via tweets, news websites, and text messages.
My first reaction — as a runner, and as a human being — was for my heart to sink down into my stomach. Then the journalistic autopilot took over. When the session concluded, this newshound sniffed her way to the nearest television to watch the details unfold live. A mix of adrenaline and shock kept any real feelings at bay.
Then, it started to sink in.
Runners are amazing people. We run through pain, through adversity, through the worst that nature can throw at us. We bond together, support each other, celebrate each other. We raise a whole lot of money for charity. We run to beat ourselves, never to beat down others.
I’ve been running for the better part of my life, and I will likely never see the starting line of the Boston Marathon. Boston runners are elite. Some of them have trained their whole lives for this, and they are the best in the world. Once runners qualify for Boston, no one can ever take that away from them; they become a “Boston Qualifier.” They are making history. The Boston Marathon finish line is the dream.
For me, the more attainable dream is this year’s Chicago Marathon. I’ve battled injury, I’ve sacrificed time and sleep and comfort and money, and I somehow made it through this year’s registration debacle. October 13th is my dream. Now, though, there’s a shadow of uncertainly and fear hovering over it.
I’ve also stood at many a race finish line — many times as a volunteer or supporter. The finish line crowds are full of friends, family, parents, children, runners, fans, and well-wishers of all shapes and sizes. The finish line crowds are full of love and support and positivity.
Any attack on innocent people is unthinkable… But an attack on runners? An attack on the pinnacle of a harmless, incredibly positive sport that brings so much good to the world? Unfathomable.
If I know anything, though, it’s that runners are resilient. They face pain, and they fight through it. They bounce back. How many times have you heard runners proudly complaining about their latest strains, sprains, or mystery ailments? Does that stop them from getting back out on the road? No. We see teams of doctors, plunge into bone-chilling ice baths, and perform self-torture with foam rollers and other bizarre therapeutic devices — all in pursuit of the runner’s high. There are runners who’ve shuffled, limped, and even crawled to the finish line. We don’t quit.
Today we were shaken, but tomorrow we’ll pick each other up, lace up our shoes, and keep running on. My thoughts are with everyone in Boston and all my fellow runners tonight. We’ll get through this. We always do.