After Monday’s horrific attack at the Boston Marathon, I’ve found it hard to approach writing this week’s running column.
Hearing the news through the Associated Press, CNN, National Public Radio and other media outlets has left me baffled and wondering why, and why runners?
It’s a similar feeling to the one many people shared in December after children were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
A deliberate, planned and coordinated attack aimed at several innocent people is always jarring to hear about; it questions our understanding of the world in which we live and whether we can trust our neighbors.
There’s a lot of opportunity to let the negative seep in and spoil our spirits — which is why I’m awed by the outpouring of optimistic messages that I’ve seen online.
It may sound silly, but for my generation, social media offers a platform for us to share our thoughts on events near and far. Instead of defeat, I’ve seen offerings of prayer and quotes from figures like the Dalai Lama, Mr. Rogers, Winston Churchill and even comedian Patton Oswalt about triumph and how the good always will outweigh the bad.
Washington Post writer Ezra Klein on Monday offered a profound reflection on his wife’s marathon-training efforts in the publication’s Wonkblog.
“The finish line at a marathon is a small marvel of fellowship. Everyone is there to celebrate how much stronger the runners are than they ever thought they could be. Total strangers line up alongside the route to yell encouragement. Bands play. Some hand out cups of water, Gatorade, even beer,” Klein wrote. “Others dress up in costumes to make the runners smile. The fact that other people can run this far makes us believe we can run that far. It’s a happy thought. It makes us all feel a little bit stronger.”
Klein’s description is so spot-on that I asked him for permission to re-print it.
On my morning runs, fellow runners are the first to wave and say “Good morning.” During long runs on Saturdays, we exchange encouraging nods or laughs as we realize we’re running the same route in opposite directions.
During the Savannah Rock’n’Roll in November, I was shocked by the number of people cheering us on.
“Oh, they’re here just to watch their own runners,” I thought, as I passed signs laced with inside jokes and bearing runners’ names.
Strewn about the route, however, were grinning spectators with posters that read things like, “Hey stranger, you got this!”
Young children lined some turns and offered high-fives to all the runners who passed, and cheerleaders rallied us from the sidelines. Though I’ve been to many events with large crowds, nothing has ever made me feel as united with those around me like that race did.
That’s why it hurt so immensely to hear the news about Boston.
But it’s also why reports are emerging that runners diverted to hospitals to give blood. It’s part of the reason Big Peach Running Co. in Atlanta held a silent run on Tuesday morning.
It’s a reminder to never stop pounding the pavement, because every run or activity strengthens our minds, bodies and souls and prepares us to take on more tomorrow.