Yesterday, my friend and I took our afternoon walk and when I came back, I was scrolling through my twitter stream and saw the first mention of “the tragedy in Boston.” I thought it was probably one of those situations where a runner dies of a heart attack on the course, but as I kept scrolling, I saw that it was much bigger than that. I told my intern, and we both huddled over a live video feed for a while, trying to understand what was going on.
Whenever a tragedy like this happens, it is human nature to personalize it. When I was a kid, going to Boston for April vacation happened quite often. It’s a great time to go — springy temps, the Red Sox are playing by then, and the hotel we always stayed at is on Beacon Street in Brookline, and we could see the racers go by. I could picture what that day looks and feels like, and even on our walk just before, my friend and I were marveling that spring seemed to have (finally!) shown up.
But since I’ve started running, I have a new way to personalize it, to try to imagine what kind of awfulness that would be. I have NO plans to ever run Boston, or a marathon, but even my slow-as-hell 5ks are the result of working toward a goal and challenging myself, and the finish line is a place of joy, and nothing else. When I read that the boy killed had just hugged his dad at the finish line and walked back to his mom and sisters, that just makes my heart hurt. One of my favorite memories of the last Freaky 5k was that Ingrid ran with me at the end, and I cannot, I cannot even begin to imagine the terror of finishing Boston, or any race, and having your family blown.up. Horrifying.
When Newtown happened, I had similar feelings — I KNOW what a 1st grade classroom is like, I know what a first grader is like — I have one. I know that 1st grade is a place of joy, that kids still love going to school in first grade, that they are wicked excited for Christmas by mid December, and the shooting there happened, it was too easy to imagine what it would look and feel like in the moments before. Same with this one, a finish line is a happy, happy place. When these acts happen in places that are just pure and joyful, it is heartbreaking.
And for all the runners who worked so hard, for so long, to have a perfect day for a marathon marred by this, I hope your next finish line is a joyful one.