Like so many folks I was profoundly saddened to hear the news out of Boston.
So much has been said in the days following. There has been sadness. There have been tears. There have been words of encouragement. Personally, I have thought many times of one of my favorite quotes from the first woman to ever run Boston, Katherine Switzer: “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”
That is why I run. I love the warm up rituals. I love the look on faces of runners as they cross the finish line. I love the crowds – big and small – that come to cheer on finishers.
I remember this well from my first marathon a year and a half ago. The first 19 miles I felt great. I felt invincible. But when mile 20 rolled around I started to feel lonely. I was craving a familiar face, someone to tell me that they knew I could do it. That was what I needed to get through that last 10K. I didn’t see anyone I knew, but I saw spectators. They were people who took a day away from doing what they wanted to do to selflessly cheer on a friend, a daughter, a husband, a mother. And yet they cheered on me too. Every now and then they would shout out my name (which was printed on my bib) and I would beam a big smile. Those cheers propelled me to mile 26 where I finally saw my boyfriend.
What I saw when I reached mile 26 was him, smiling so big. He was proud. He was running along with me, snapping photos with my camera. He was telling me how I looked fast and strong. I started crying and I remember I told him to shut up because I was so tired I didn’t think I had enough strength to cry and run at the same time. We laugh about that all the time now.
My point in telling this story is that I think when most people think about marathons they think about the runners. For sure, anyone who has run a marathon accomplishes an amazing physical and mental feat. But many of the runners I know say that the difference maker are the spectators – the people who wake up early to line the streets, the folks who man the aid stations, the family that sets up a card table with water and orange slices, the local marching band, the smiling faces that scream the names of runners as they go by. Those people make the difference for us runners. Those are the people I am thinking about in the wake of this tragedy.
I’ve been trying to think of how I, as a runner, can honor those who have lost so much in the wake of this tragedy. I’ve decided that for every mile I run in April I’ll donate a dollar to charity. I will run each of my runs with purpose and focus, thinking about those people who cheer so loud for their friends and family. Their love, their dedication will push us all forward to our finish lines.