A thousand years ago, I used to be a runner.
It was my sport-of-choice since I was in grade school, when we’d run for fund-raising causes, like for Terry Fox, or The Heart & Stroke Foundation. As I grew older, I moved from longer distances, to middle distances, and ended up mostly running sprints by the end of high school, but the feeling of running is one I still remember. Beyond the physical parts that are both wonderful and agonizing, the invisible part that forces you to keep on going is really an amazing, inexplicable thing. And all the more sweet when during a race, you see and hear the faces of people around you, urging you on, clapping and cheering for your efforts.
Long-distance running is such a solo thing, so personal, and sometimes even lonesome in it’s experience, so it is immeasurable to have such encouragement from others – and you often feel it the hardest when you need it most. That kind of encouragement can make a person feel almost weightless, when ones legs of iron feel like they cannot possibly take another step.
I often have tears in my eyes when I watch the final laps of sporting events (the Olympics is one huge tear-fest for me) as I watch the athletes do the their thing, and hear the roaring cries of YAAAAAAAAAY from the people who support them. Many of those people don’t even know the athletes personally… cheering on strangers is such an everyone-hold-hands, collective thing to do, that it makes for a living, breathing, almost kumbaya kind of spirit of goodness and sportsmanship as we shout encouragement to build people up for the day – it is truly awesome to behold. People can’t help but smile and be joyous. Uplifting is what it is.
And so, yesterday’s explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where many people congregated to greet those at the end of such a long and gruelling run, jumping wildly as they clapped and cheered at the top of their voices, and totally innocent… I felt instantly sick. I mean, What the hell? Who would DO such a thing??!
And I watched the TV and the numbers of the injured crept higher and higher.
And the dead… two at that time… one child eight years of age.
And news that said in Boston hospitals, doctors have had to perform necessary amputations.
My stomach roiled and I didn’t know what to think or say. And such is the wretchedness of this thing happening in another place, somewhere I’ve never even been, and hearing snippets of interviews, and sound bites of press conferences, watching the news reel run across the bottom of the screen, and seeing bloody images and carnage, and horrified faces, and smoke, and panic, and screaming, and flags on the ground…
I went to bed forcing images out of my head and trying not to worry about the safety of the world for my children, and for us all. I didn’t sleep very well last night.
But this morning I remembered the thing about running… and the thing is about perseverance. It is to go on, even in the face of adversity, when things are difficult, and one’s not even sure one can succeed. It’s like a light that forces you to take another step towards it… and it’s the thing runners have. I know runners are out there doing their thing in Boston this very morning, (and everywhere else in the world) despite the tragedy. In spite of it.
It’s the thing Boston will do now, as they sweep up the rubble and mend their injured, and bury their dead. They are not alone in their mourning and their sadness. The rest of the world is still clapping from the sidelines… you can do it… you can do it… you can do it… even though we have tears in our eyes. Even though we can’t actually be there to help. We are there in spirit.
Boston will persevere. Because it must.
We should all adopt such a spirit of perseverance, whether we don sneakers or whether we don’t. It can’t help but be affectual in one’s own life, in taking on regular tasks as well as the tougher ones, because it helps stem the fear and the sadness of uncertainty.
Boston, we are heartbroken and we mourn with you… but runners and their families from all over the globe will be back next year for 2014 Boston Marathon. You can bet on it.
Take a deep breath and put one foot in front of the other…