By now, the people of Boston are allowed to return to their lives as usual, since the suspects of the Boston marathon bombing have been located, one killed, the other taken into custody. The past week has been a blur of grief, confusion, and most recently suspense, as the town was locked down and two brothers sought ought in what sounded like a Hollywood-written thriller chase scene. Now we return to the reality of it, the absurdity of it, and try to find a way to move on in a world that makes no sense.
I'm very far away from Boston, physically, but anyone who runs or races felt the impact of Monday's attack in a very personal way. We marathon runners all dream of qualifying for Boston one day, whether we admit it or not. It's the Kona of running, yet slightly more democratic: there is an actual time, not a ranking, that you must achieve. It's a difficult and barely attainable time for many of us, and qualifying alone will be one of the crowning achievements of our amateur athletic careers, some thing we will look back at once we are old and unable to run and say, "I did Boston that year".
For the fast runners, the easy qualifiers, and the winners, it's not a question of if, but how fast they will finish Boston. These racers finished the marathon hours (if not at least hour) before the attacks. The people who were targeted, whose spectating families and friends lost their limbs and lives, were the everyday people, the people who set their mind to a goal, who just came in at qualifying times, who were running not for time, but to celebrate their ability to achieve something they set their minds to. They are a testament to the good in humanity, and those who stuck around to watch them reach their goals after the winners sped across the finish line were showing their pride and solidarity in this beautiful moment. Athletics is inspiring, and I've said countless times, the most exciting part of the Ironman is not seeing the winner, but watching the hobbling, suffering last few athletes JUST make their cutoff time. Because those are the people we relate to. Those are us. They are not naturally gifted, they finish because they dug deep into their core and found a strength they never knew they had, that we all as human beings have.
To attack the finishers at 4:10 into the Boston marathon was to attack that core quality of human goodness. It attacked the solidarity and community the race has celebrated for well over a hundred years. There is nothing political, religious, or ideological about a marathon. It is something that inspires and unites us. To attack it is like attacking a homeless shelter or children: it is senseless and terrible, and undoes a power of good in the world. Having seen the response to the attack in the past week, however, I do not think evil will prevail. By evil, I mean bad deeds beget bad deeds, that someone hurting us inspires bitterness, suspicion, retaliation. Marathons ran two miles AFTER the race to give blood. Unharmed spectators ran TOWARD the injured to help, not even flinching when the second explosion occurred. Bostonians along the course took stranded marathoners into their homes to warm up and wait for rescue. This attack on the core of what we are capable of has released the good in us, I like to think. It has made the community of Boston unite, and across the country, other runners and athletes have come together to express our solidarity with them.
Here in LA, A Runner's Circle hosted a flashlight run, and an enormous number of runners came out. This ranged from the super fast ultra runners and triathletes to 10K enthusiasts to folks walking with their children. We all felt the need to do something, to show that we still believed in the inspiring good the Boston Marathon represents to us all. Having sat alone at home listening to NPR and checking web sites and facebook for updates, I really felt the need to connect with my runner friends, and felt so grateful we did that. Those first hours of fear that the 20 or so people I knew who were racing and their families may have been in the blast was sickening, but it was only a slight relief to hear everyone from LA escaped: many people did not, and those easily could have been my loved ones, or even myself (Boston was, and remains, an eventual race goal of mine... and this does not change that.)
The flashlight run was a symbolic gesture: we couldn't give blood, and we didn't raise money. But we did show up, and stood together, and reflected on what this meant to us, to run as a group, to keep running, to hold onto our goals, and to keep believing in the good of humanity.
So now, onward.