Keep on running
The Boston marathon — a dream for so many runners, including myself. Any marathon, really, requires a degree of dedication and sacrifice and preparation that is hard to fathom even when setting out to undertake it. The three-and-a-half-hour training runs, the 50-plus miles-a-week schedules, parties missed, early nights and the week leading up to the race when you put yourself on virtual lockdown for fear of stubbing a toe, or catching a bug or anything that would put your months of hard work at risk.
Any marathon starts out as a dream, becomes a series of sacrifices, and finally a rigorous and unyielding test.
But, Boston is unique in its stringent qualification requirements — you can't just enter. Your participation in Boston is the direct result of putting out an exemplary effort in a previous marathon. A test within a test; simply getting to the starting line is an accomplishment.
Who knew that getting safely to the finish line would be another completely separate feat, one where the margin would be utterly random, and of a terrifyingly slim dimension.
Authorities are hard at work to determine who was behind Monday's bombings, and what their motivations were. We will hopefully know shortly. For those directly affected, even this may be of limited comfort. No one set out that day expecting to come out the other side missing a limb or worse. It's unthinkable. And like any random act of violence, painfully unfair.
The running community is tight. I've been a runner for 20 years. The sense of camaraderie at the start line of a race is like nothing I've experienced anywhere else. In Boston, the feeling is magnified. "Where are you from?", "This your first trip to Boston?", "What was your qualifying race?" Everybody at the start line is excited, and thrilled to be together, having all arrived along a similar tough road with similar lofty ambitions. On the bus to the start I met a hilarious group of women from Philadelphia who've run 25 marathons together, including nine at Boston. And I met a decorated Paralympian, a below-the knee amputee at Boston for the first time. I really hope and wish that they all got home safely that day.
But I can't know for sure. Ultimately the information will become available about who was hurt and who was killed, bringing the tragedy into sharper focus. But for a hair it could have been anyone — runners, people who support runners, fans, people who support the sport, or were perhaps just doing their jobs. I had five people who I love dearly with me in Boston. Each of them had travelled many miles to support me, and knew how meaningful this was. The idea that a hair on any one of their heads might have been harmed that day enrages me. My parents were both in the grandstand to watch me cross the finish line at my qualifying race (New York 2011).