Monday is the Boston Marathon. Many folks might not have paid much attention to this day, in the past. But that all changed with the events that transpired just over a year ago. Now, this iconic marathon becomes even more so; dedicating the run and race to all those who were killed and injured.
My sister, Rachel, is going to be one among the pack. Last year after the bombings, she made it her mission to qualify and run Boston this year in memory and honor. And she did just that. See, unless you get a special "pass" or run with some sort of fundraising group, you have to qualify to run the Boston Marathon. It's the only marathon in the U.S. that requires you to do so. To make the cut, you must run the entire 26.2 miles under a specific time for your age group. Unfortunately, in my seven full marathons, I have never hit the mark. It's OK, she's faster than me. A little sibling rivalry can be healthy. In all honesty, I'm really proud of her. That's us in the picture, at the start line of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. in 2011. If you can't tell by our body language, it was COLD. We actually did two marathons together that year, both within 30 days.
The Boston bombings rocked us as a nation, as it should. Terrorism is some tricky, nasty stuff. But as a runner myself, it hit especially hard. Runners run for different reasons. They run races for different reasons, too. Some of us do it for health (mental and physical) or to raise money for a cause. Some do it as a healthy competition, with others or with themselves. I've mentioned before that I run for a variety of purposes, but mainly to keep my sanity. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in memory of my best friend's brother, Mike, who was killed in Afghanistan.
Runners, in my opinion, are a special kind of people. Call us "joggers" and you might get a dirty look or a swift kick to the groin. So, when someone intentionally hurts us – and our supporters – we don't take it lightly. We take it in stride. We rise above. We stay strong. Boston Strong? Hell yeah.
In addition to being a runner, I am, as you know, a writer. So, last year when the bombings occurred, I got out my pen and I wrote a poem (see below). And then I went for a run.
See, runners don't stop running because of something like what happened in Boston. If nothing else, we run even more. Some of the survivors of the bombings will be crossing the finish line this year, even those who lost limbs. Runners will run through rain, heat, wind, cold, snow, blisters, shin splints, aching knees and hips, pulled muscles, pinched nerves, sickness... I mean, I went for a six-miler the day after getting my wisdom teeth pulled. Oh! And don't forget the day I got hit by a car, picked myself up and finished my run. Those are simply minor obstacles in doing what we love. Maybe not even obstacles; more like challenges.
OK, not so much the "getting hit by a car" part of the story... that was possibly the wrong reaction; I probably should have gone to the hospital.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating that you go out and run on a bum knee. You have to take care of yourself. Even passion has its limits. All I'm saying is that when you really, truly love something, you'll do anything to make it work. You'll make sacrifices. You'll make deals with yourself. I have days where I feel like I can run forever. On those days I can justify one or two more miles... it's only another nine minutes per mile; in the scheme of things, what difference does that extra bit of time really make? Will my computer miss me that much in a mere 18 minutes? No. So, I keep running.
People often look at me like I'm crazy. I run every day. Most days I run twice a day: once on my own, and then again with my friend (who also happens to be my personal trainer). I will run to the gym, run with her, lift weights for an hour, and run home. In January, one of my friends asked if I would do her long run with her (she was training for the L.A. Marathon). She was running 16 miles that day. Had I run more than eight miles in the last few months? Nope. But the thought of getting to run 16 was like heaven. We both made it, in not too shabby of a finish time, either. Some of my friends affectionately call me Forrest.
(OK... maybe I'm a little crazy.)
I can't identify my favorite run, because so many are memorable. Even the painful ones are memorable. But the run that takes the cake for the most beautiful was just a month ago when I was in South Africa. I was staying in Cape Town, right on the coast. I had the ocean to my left, the waves crashing into rocks, the sun making the water sparkle... and the mountain to my right. It was breathtaking. I was laughing and had tears in my eyes at the same time. I wish I had a photo to share, but the only picture I have is the one that is forever in my mind.
It is runs like those that make me know I will forever be a runner. I may need a short break while I recover from my impending hip surgery, but I will always run.
If you're not a runner, you probably won't understand fully what I'm talking about here. You can appreciate the concept, but you may never really know what it means... that is, until you become a runner yourself.
Won't you join me?
The following poem was written the day of the Boston bombings...
You Are a Terrorist
You are a terrorist.
You live and breathe to instill
You bring death to the innocent;
You work for an agenda that sees us as the enemy.
But there is no
There is only us.
Because what you don't understand is that there is no battle here.
When you reign terror over others you have already lost.
We are not defined as
We are simply people who
and help each other in times of need.
We don't need your battle to win.
We are already champions of love.