After 83 marathons, my husband has endured almost every type of marathon experience. Some have brought him the highest of fist pumping highs while on other race days, I have found him slumped over with hollow and empty eyes at the finish line. It's an endurance event, and you come to expect the unexpected. But the unexpected that came with his 12th Boston Marathon finds us stunned.
While all marathons have different endings, most of them start the same way for Chris. He's up early, eating a cinnamon raisin bagel and a Power Bar. Like every other runner who does marathons, the same predictable pre-race routine gives you comfort, because the race itself is always so unpredictable. Marathoners are really one in the same. No matter what your marathon experience, at the starting line everyone has the same goal in mind, to get to the finish line. We run united in our cause. Chris would chip away the miles quickly today, reveling in the cooler weather and the lightness his legs were feeling. Most who climbed the famed Heartbreak hill at mile 21 didn't realize at the time that the hill would truly have leave them heart-broken at the end of the day. Chris would recall that the usual frenzied cheering from Wellsley’s women on the hill as even more spine tingling than ever as a T-Train driver stood on the train horn simultaneously. This course usually wrecks him, but not today. The scene was electrifying and it propelled his feet to hardly touch the ground. He was reminded at mile 26 of his good fortune in life as he ran past a Newtown Memorial. The famed blue finish was within sight. Doing his final surge down Boyleston Street, tired but in a state of adrenaline induced hyper-alertness, he finished in 2 hours, 45 minutes and thirteen seconds. It was a good Boston, starkly different from many past races he’s had there. At the finish line he would encounter the many happy faces reaching out to care for him after his efforts. The mood in Boston is typically euphoric on Patriot’s Day and today was no different. Wrapped in his metal space blanket, he would be congratulated over and over again as he weaved through the dense crowds of revelers.
At home we had been tracking him all day. A race for Peter had kept us out of Boston so we had divided and conquered. When 9/11 happened, we all remembered where we were. Today would be similar. I would be getting into the car to bring Peter to run with a friend. I wasn’t sure what to say to him. A new line had been crossed. The innocence of the sport we love has been shattered. But innocence was staring me in the eye and he wanted to run. So I let him do it.
This was our 9/11. We were safe, but no one felt so. I had stood in the same place where the bomb had went off more times than I can remember, holding my kids high so they could get a glimpse of the world’s best runners. It’s an idealistic place of tearful joy. I couldn’t get it out of my head as yet another freedom had been torn away. Both on 9/11 and today, my immediate family and extended human family had stood on the cusps of tragedy. We felt rattled.
I was floored as our extended running family reached out via facebook and texts. I walked around Coginchaug’s new track responding on my phone that the family was safe. In this town, I’m bringing up a new generation of runners and I somehow felt responsible for the well-being of my young runners as they swallowed this unfortunate reality. To our community of runners young and old alike:
Endurance runners endure, that’s their nature. We’re taught to endure pain, inside and out and to accept uphill battles. The monster that did this doesn't realize that (he or she) is messing with the wrong crowd. We know pain and don't fear it. We have been known to embrace it actually. Despite the pain in our hearts right now, our community will endure and come out stronger and more united than ever. Frankly, despite what happened, there is no place we would rather be than running over the finish line of Boston Marathon. We run towards a finish line, not away. We run because it balances each of us within and it unites us with our world and with each other. While one may think of the runner as a solitary figure, we are the furthest thing from it. We are the unbroken spirit that gets it.
Lace up your shoes and Go Far.