In the wake of the tragic Boston Marathon yesterday, in the midst of the floods of people expressing their sympathies and prayers, their sorrow, their support, their worries, their suspicions and accusations – the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of humanity all revealed in the blast – there’s something more simple about the sheer scale of the tragedy that I’ve been trying to put words to, in the honor of those who were caught in the blast, and I don’t really know how to do so.
I feel like running a marathon – especially a marathon like Boston, for which you have to qualify to run, for which you need to work and train and try like hell – I feel like an event like that, training for something like that, is one of the few things our culture has left that’s just simple and pure in its nobility, its respectability, its worth. Yes, marathons have become mass-consumption events, and minimalist shoes are everywhere, and there’s a different marathon training plan for every dollar you have to spend on it; yes, people drug and dope and jump on every advantage they can find.
But there’s still some kind of simple truth in the fact that you can’t cheat 26.2 miles. No matter what you do to get there, at the end, it’s just you at the starting line vs 26.2 miles. That’s it. You still have to get through that by itself.
And that’s something that’s – it’s something that’s good, something that’s worth it, something that’s worth working hard as hell to earn.
My broke-ass body ran a half marathon two years ago. Even getting to that – to a half – was a huge investment experience in dedication, in determination, in deliberation, in focus and effort and sheer hard work. Understanding the feelings that came out of that and then transposing it not only to a full marathon, but to an event like the Boston Marathon: that really is something that not just anyone can do, or will do. It’s something that people train and work for, for years; it’s something that only a special kind of hard work and focus and effort and talent will achieve.
To think about that being the target for anyone makes me ill. To think that somewhere in the world there is a person (or group of people) who chose this event – this great, worthy, respectable event – that so many people not only dream about but sacrifice for – and decided that yes, this is the place to release fear and anger and hate and just plain awfulness… There aren’t even words with which I can sum up how the hard-working runners and volunteers there did not deserve that ending to their stories. There’s almost something logically incongruous about it: running is hard enough; a marathon itself is punishment enough; I don’t know. I don’t understand.
I do think it speaks to something to note how many ran towards the explosions to see what they could do, how many helped out, how many offered support — because running is a club, it’s a family, it’s a language people can share in common; it’s a community. Even if you run alone, you don’t really run alone.
So I don’t really have anything to add to the millions of posts that are out there expressing sympathies and prayers and concerns and hopes. Except that Boston, the next mile I run, it will be for you.