April 23, 2013 — A year before my mother turned 50 she decided she was going to run a marathon. She had never been a runner, but she said if Oprah could run a marathon, so could she. So she bought several books and a new pair of running shoes and began running every day. I listened to her laugh about how slow she was, how she could barely finish her distances without stopping to walk, how runners in their 80s passed her on the trail, but she kept at it and, like anyone who keeps practicing anything, she got better.
I’ll never forget the summer night in her living room when she found out she had been invited to run the New York City Marathon with the American Cancer Society. We screamed and danced in circles around the couch. A few months later, I had the incredible and unforgettable experience of cheering on my mother as she crossed the finish line in New York City. It was the first of many magical racing experiences for both of us.
Seeing her hard work, determination and fearlessness inspired me to begin running as well. Like my mom, I had never been a runner, but I remembered her journey and her transformation. I will never forget her encouraging words to me, “Just cover the distance. Whether you’re running, walking, or crawling, just cover the distance.” So, I did. And yes, sometimes it was running, a lot of the time it was walking and, on really bad days, it was everything I could do to not crawl.
In the summer of 2010, I was blessed to share another extraordinary experience with my mother when we ran together in the San Francisco Marathon. It is one of my most cherished memories with her.
Since then, she and I, as well my husband and other members of our family have run in several races together. Running has brought us closer as a family and given us an incredible amount of happy memories.
In every race I have been a part of, I have been stunned by the resilience of the running community, the overwhelming camaraderie that takes places at races and the compassion and support complete strangers can extend to one another. I used to think running was a lonely sport, just you versus your best time, you and the pavement. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
There is nothing like the joy of crossing the finish line and there is nothing like doing it with loved ones by your side.
On April 15, 2013 someone tried to take the joy out of crossing the finish line for many runners and spectators. When I first heard, I could barely turn on the TV and change the channel to the news I was shaking so badly. I remember watching with teary eyes, feeling helpless and heartsick. That heartsickness still hasn’t left me.
Like most people, I have a lot of questions, some of which will never be answered. How could someone do something so horrific and violent at such a happy event participated in by so many good people? How will people ever be able to run in races again and feel safe? Can the running community recover from this? Can I do anything to help?
Well, in the days that followed the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon, I found the answers to most of those questions.
Runners will undoubtedly continue to run in races with the same amount of resilience and fearlessness they always have. The running community will recover and undoubtedly become stronger than ever.
Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon, had reached mile 25.5 of his 45th anniversary race when he was diverted by police. I think he captured the spirit of the running community when he said afterward, “The roads belong to us, and their use represents an important part of our free and democratic tradition. Yes, we must be ever vigilant. We cannot cover our eyes and ears and pretend violent acts don’t threaten our great institutions. But our institutions did not become great by following a path of timidity and cowardice.”
I cannot say I am surprised by the amount of heartwarming and impressive stories about courageous and selfless acts that came out of this tragic event. In my experience, the same spirit of bravery and compassion is always overwhelmingly present at races.
While I am still saddened and disgusted by the senseless violence that changed so many innocent lives at this year’s Boston Marathon, I can no longer feel helpless. There are so many ways to help. The One Fund Boston, Inc. was established days after the bombing as a way to raise money for the people affected by the tragic event. A grassroots movement has started online, asking runners to show their support by wearing race T-shirts in the coming weeks. And, of course, runners all over the country are showing their support by doing what they do best—running. Several schools and running clubs have organized running and walking events to raise money or simply show support for the Boston Marathon.
I am overjoyed to see runners out running this week, and I plan to be one of them. Whether it’s running, walking or crawling, let’s cover the distance together.
For a list of ways to help those affected by the tragic events that took place at the Boston Marathon, visit runnersworld.com/general-interest/how-help-or-show-support-boston.
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