I debated whether to write this post. More than 30 hours after the first bomb exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I’m still grappling with my emotions and attempting to give them the proper adjectives. I hesitate to write anything at all, given the extensive coverage all over the blogosphere — quite a few of them more eloquently stated than I could ever do. But this is my blog, and in a way, it’s also my journal… a place for me to ponder, reflect, and sort out my feelings. Not to mention, this blog is my way of interacting with the running community — a community, as we’ve seen in the last 30 hours, full of generous, courageous, and sympathetic individuals. Anyway, so I proceed, but without any promises of cohesion.
So, let’s rewind back to yesterday. As I ate breakfast, I cheered on the top Americans as they came in 4th in both the women’s and men’s races. Then, I began tracking two blogger friends, and was excited to see them both finish strong. I went back to work, regularly checking Twitter for Boston updates. Shortly before noon PST, I found about the explosions. I felt sick to my stomach. It was all that I could think about for the rest of the day. I was relieved to see updates from friends in the Boston area that they were OK, but I knew that there were lots of people injured. At that point, there were no reports of fatalities, and I was grateful for that.
As I began to process what happened, and eventually learn about the 3 people who died and 170+ people injured, I began to cycle through a jumble of emotions: sadness, anger, hope, frustration, and despair. I went back and forth between devouring as much information as I could, to needing to take a mental and emotional break from it all. I don’t know how many times I’ve teared up just thinking about the people who lost their lives or their limbs, and also the heros who ran to help those injured in the first blast, all while another bomb exploded down the street.
Tragedies happen every day. I’m aware of that. It happens around the world and also on American soil. But no single “big” event has affected me more personally than yesterday’s bombings. In these kind of situations, the immediate empathetic response is to put ourselves in other people’s shoes. I’m not saying that yesterday’s bombings were more harmful or tragic than other attacks — just that my personal response to it was more visceral. (For instance, I’m sure that if I were a parent, I would’ve felt similarly ill about the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings.) What I mean to say is that, I have been in those people’s shoes yesterday. Not at Boston, but at many other races, whether I was racing, volunteering, or spectating. I remember how emotional I felt as I ran the last miles of my first marathon, and how overwhelmingly delirious I was with happiness when I got to see the Gypsy Runner at mile 18 and after I finished. To imagine a bomb exploding in the place of those memories is incomprehensible.
I’m not usually the kind of person who wears awareness ribbons or bracelets for causes, but last night, I heard about the movement to wear race shirts in support of the Boston victims. I debated about whether to do it. I decided that even though it doesn’t actually *do* anything to help them, it was something that I needed to do for myself, as well as to symbolize the solidarity I felt with my fellow runners. Wearing my CIM shirt while running this morning made me stand a little taller. I made more of an effort to smile at other runners and concentrated on being grateful for the simple act of running.
At the end of all of these feelings, I would like to say that I’m left with hope and gratitude. Yes, these acts of violence are horrible and tragic. Yes, I wish they would never happen again. But is that realistic? No. Even if I do manage to avoid being killed or maimed by a bomb, that doesn’t mean I’m “safe” — any number of things can kill or harm me or my loved ones at any moment. Should I live in fear? HELL NO. What should I do then? Well, if death can come to us at any moment, then we should live fully until that moment comes. What does that mean? For me, that means being grateful for the people in your life who you love, and letting them know that you love them. It means doing things without fear or regret. It means not allowing negative people or circumstances get in the way of pursuing your goals.
Well, that got really cheesy really fast. Didn’t mean to get all New Age-y on you. All I know is that one of the things that running has taught me is resilience. And plenty of resilience and grit is what we need right now.