Where do I begin?
One week ago, I was in Boston. Preparing to run the marathon. And, though I hate to admit it now, I was thoroughly ambivalent about running it.
There were so many people. And they were all wearing the same blue and gold jacket. And the expo was crowded. And my foot hurt. And I was cold. And there were so many people. And it was another weekend, one of too many recently, that I wasn’t home with my babies.
Why is Boston such a BIG DEAL? Why do people want to run it so badly? Why do they take themselves so seriously?
I crawled into bed and tried to sleep.
I woke up the next morning, and the world wasn’t much better. My dog was missing in Richmond. I had lost my driver’s license. My foot hurt.
I ate my breakfast, got dressed and donned my “throw-away” gear that would keep me warm while we waited to start. One last inventory of essentials (hydration pack, arm warmers, ear-buds) and I headed to the bus.
And then, just like that, the magic hit.
My phone buzzed: Daisy had been found – she was safe!! It buzzed again: Pam and Crista were at the start & wanted to run together! There were a half-dozen familiar Richmond faces on the bus! In the athlete’s village, I bumped into another friend and got to wish her luck! In the starting corral, yet another Richmond friend to hug & run with for a mile or two.
Coming out of my funk, I realized that I was the luckiest gal in the world. I had then whole day to run with friends and enjoy life, and I’d be dammed if an achy foot was going to ruin that.
As soon as my attitude changed, Boston unveiled herself to me. I got it. 26.2 miles of joy. From the front lawns in Hopkinton and Framingham to the college kids at Wellesly and BC. On lawn chairs and trampolines and fire ladders and balconies, we runners were treated to the longest stretch of cheerleaders I’ve ever seen. Thousands of hands to high-five. Music and dancing. Celebration.
The runners were not the cause of the celebration, we were merely the excuse for revelry. The town was celebrating itself, its tradition, and its culture. I felt honored to be a part of that.
By the time I crossed the finish line with my friends, I had fallen in love with this crazy town.
20 minutes later, the bombs went off.
We were still in the finish area, retrieving our drop bags from the bus. Boom! We turned around. Cannons? It is Patriots Day. Boom! Cell phones are raised. There is smoke in the street. Things no longer make sense. We look at each other, a silent question: Is everything OK?
A lady next to me can’t get through to her son. He is at the finish line. “Do I need to panic?”, she asks me. “I don’t think so”, I answer, “No one is panicking. We don’t need to worry until they tell us something has happened.” She knows, and I know, that something has happened.
A police office stares blankly ahead. Staying calm until his radio crackles. Keep moving out of the finish area folks. We start moving more quickly. My hotel is a block away and I head straight there. A quick text to my parents and brother and Jimmy. I am OK. If you see something on the news, know that I am OK.
In the hotel, people are still oblivious. I head up to my room and drop my stuff. No Jimmy. I come back down and its buzzing. Bombs. Terrorists. Other devices. Lock down.
The next few hours are a blur. 2 hours after the blast, Jimmy finally gets to the hotel. He describes the panic, the injured people he saw on the street. Messages and texts trickle in. All Richmond runners are safe. Debbie and Tim are locked out of their hotel but find room at ours. My marathon-tired body needs food, but when my plate arrives, I can only stomach a bite.
We fly home the next morning, on a clear day. We fly over Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and I see my small babies running along the sand with their school friends. Gleeful shrieks as they jump off the dock and into the chilly water. I hold tight to the memory of last summer – of moms and kids and no bombs in the street of Boston.
And now. One week later. One bomber dead, the other captured. The nightmare over.
My heart aches for Boston. And my mind is resolved to return next year. I owe that city an apology, and as a runner, I owe that city my sweat and tears. For 117 years, the Boston Marathon has been the lifeblood of our sport. For better or for worse, it represents the pinnacle of amateur accomplishment. I will never run in the Olympics, or stand upon a winner’s podium. But with a reasonable amount of time and training, I can qualify to run Boston.
So this girl who so loves the mountains and trails and woods – she won’t hang up her road shoes just yet.