About 48 hours ago, I was hosting a very successful pity party. Wildly successful. If it had been a real party, we would have been talking open bar, passed apps, full dinner, the whole deal. I posted here for the first time in over four months about how my Eugene Marathon training had hit a snag in the form of a bitchy hip flexor and that I had scheduled a hail mary physical therapy appointment for today.
When I walked into the PT office early this morning, it was with a heart both heavy and grateful. Grateful to be able to walk into the office at all. Grateful to have problems so miniscule.
I don’t know how to talk about what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday. Not really.
Yesterday I knew how to obsessively refresh Twitter, scanning for posts that would let me know that both the people I knew running in Boston were okay, as well those that I only know of, but because of this hybrid online/real life running community that I’ve stumbled into, feel like friends to me.
Today I’ve known how to read everything I can find on the internet and when that becomes overwhelming, stop reading, but keep listening to the live stream of Boston’s NPR station online as I work.
I’ve known that every runner I’ve seen in the last 24 hours has seemed so… significant. And not because they wanted to, for once. Runners are a pretty self-centered bunch. A lot of the time I think the running community gives off an incredibly off-putting air of holier-than-thou-ness. And I totally lump myself in with them, lest anyone think I’m casting stones. We all just LOVE RUNNING SO DAMN MUCH and can’t understand why maybe y’all don’t want to hear about it as often as we think about it. My point though is that all the runners I’ve seen since yesterday have made me happy and sad at the same time and they have seemed to carry a little more weight on their shoulders than perhaps they did before yesterday.
And even as I’m writing this, I know that I still don’t truly know what I want to say. The catch in my throat from reading stories online feels like it’s there to stay and each article supplants the one before it as the most poignant thing I’ve read. Most recently, I read this piece praising that kind, lovely, necessary breed – the marathon spectator.
My heart breaks for everyone affected in Boston yesterday, but the cracks for the spectators might run just a little bit deeper. To stand outside for hours, yelling like maniacs and holding up signs? What return is there really on that investment? The grateful, pained smiles from a staggering, sometimes zombie-like mass of humanity? Every wonderful person I know who has ever come out to cheer for me has seemed to genuinely enjoy the experience. Every stranger who I’ve fallen in love with as they encouraged me to keep going has looked so happy to be doing it. And yet, we need them so much more than they need us. Spectators believe in marathoners when we have stopped believing in ourselves. They propel us to – and most importantly through – the finish. Yesterday, they lined Boylston Street as what I would consider the varsity team of spectators and their selflessness and kindness was met with unthinkable horror.
Speaking of selfish runners, one of the images from yesterday was particularly sobering for me to see.
The clock at the finish line as the first bomb went off read 4:09:44. My current marathon PR is 4:09:48. To be clear, I am not implying (or even privately thinking, I swear) that it could have been me in Boston. It will possibly be years – if ever – before I run a Boston qualifying time. Even if I did, I know enough about the course to know that I would be lucky to finish it in 4:09 and would most likely be a number of minutes behind that. What I thought about when I saw that familiar number was that while I may never know what it feels like in Boston, I know what it feels like to cross a finish line in 4:09. Much like the varsity level spectators cheering them on, Boston runners are the varsity team of marathoners. As a member of the JV 4:09 team, I felt something very personal and very sad when I saw that picture yesterday.
But there is also so much good being demonstrated right now. You’ve seen a lot of it, I’m sure and I feel like I need to put the brakes on this train before it goes completely off the rails. One of the most powerful, tangible displays of human goodness has to be the Google Doc created to match the displaced and stranded with those in the Boston area willing to open their homes. Real names and phone numbers and email addresses of real people able to do real good at such a helpless time. A pretty simple spreadsheet that speaks volumes about the inherent goodness of the majority of people, even when it doesn’t feel like that’s the truth of the world we live in.
I probably won’t know any more clearly what to say about yesterday when I’m in Eugene in 12 days, but I will wear blue and yellow and I will feel sad and grateful and I will fall in love with some strangers and I will be thinking of Boston.