Monday, April 22, 2013

The Perseverance of Runners

"We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves...The more restricted our society and work become, the more necessary it will be to find some outlet for this craving for freedom. No one can say, 'You must not run faster than this, or jump higher than that.' The human spirit is indomitable." 

-Sir Roger Bannister, first runner to run a sub-4 minute mile

"Running is not, as it so often seems, only about what you did in your last race or about how many miles you ran last week. It is, in a much more important way, about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too." 
--Richard O'Brien

The events last Monday at the Boston Marathon impacted each and everyone of us.  A sense of vulnerability was suddenly very apparent   The uncertainly, the fear, the terror all captured on video and pictures, along with the aftermath that followed the following week were unimaginable.  

This hit home for me.  No, I was not there.  And no, I am not related or know any of the injured or deceased.

But this was personal, as I suspect it was for all of us in some way.

I have a love for Boston.  Both my parents were born and raised in Boston.  I have family that lives there.  I have friends that call Boston home.

My 9 year old and I just returned from a spring break vacation to Boston last month.  I let her pick where we were going to travel.  I was prepared for Orlando or the beach.  But once again, this little girl surprised me.  Her choice was Boston.  She had never been but had been learning about the northeast in school so Boston was on her radar.

She picked out our daily itinerary  which included walking the entire Freedom Trail, having lunch at Fanueil Hall, and touring the Boston Tea Party Museum.  But two experiences came flashing back into our minds last Monday.  

One of the very first "touristy" experiences we had was viewing the city from The Prudential Building.  From that vantage point we noticed the Boston Marathon finish line, which is marked permanently on  Boylston Street in yellow paint.  The other was her decision to check out the Boston Public Library - which is just steps away from the finish area.

Although there have been many tragedies during my daughter's short lifetime, never before had she been able to place herself in the exact location, to be able to picture the surroundings, to have a frame of reference.  It saddened me that as a 9 year old, she could envision herself in the exact locations flashing up on the news surrounded with tragedy.  She was scared by the events and the familiarity of it all.

The events also impacted two other important families of mine - the running community and the LIVESTRONG community..

As a marathoner, running has saved me many a times through bouts of depression, anger and frustration.  Training for marathons has given me goals, given me stamina, given me a sense of invincibility and perseverance no other sport has ever given me.

Participating in marathons brought me to LIVESTRONG.  It was my first marathon that got me involved with Team LIVESTRONG.

Participating in running created new friendships.  Runners are incredibly supportive of one another - regardless of age, speed or accomplishments.  I have never been surrounded by such a competitive group of people that ALL wanted everyone else to succeed as well.

Through running I have built long lasting friendships with people from Oregon, Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Texas, etc etc etc.  Many through participation in LIVESTRONG events.

And last week, this tragedy hit my running family.   The majority were strangers, but none would be a stranger if I was running beside them.  I've never run a marathon, half marathon, 10K, 5K or just a group run where anyone was truly a stranger.  There is a camaraderie that exists among runners.  

I've struggled along some races but with the support of the strangers lining the course and the runners around me, I've always been able to dig deep and get it done.  

Running has given me the opportunity to a lover of new cities as I become a running "tourist" and has created a secondary family from events such as Hood to Coast (I dare you to spend 30 plus hours in a van with strangers sleeping in grassy fields, scouting out bathrooms and changing in/out of some rather smelly clothes and not make new friends that know you better than some of your own family).

A few of my Team LIVESTRONG Hood to Coast family were on the course last week.  They had worked relentlessly to achieve a goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.  One has been plagued by injuries but the other stuck with her throughout the race. 

Because that is what runners do for one another.  They help each other through tough situations.

And although so many did not finish the marathon due to the explosions, I have a pretty big hunch that none of them even cared about that.  Unlike other marathons that were black flagged due to weather, lacked enough hydration on the course, or just were poorly planned for a number of reasons, I have yet to hear of a single marathoner complaining about how this impacted them.  Not a sign of selfishness.

I think they all did what all runners do.  They thought beyond themselves.  They took care of each other.  They immediately thought about those in need - we have all heard of those leaving the course and donating blood (after running 24 - 26 miles!), providing support to the EMTs, comforting one another, sharing cell phones to let loved ones know they were OK.

You know what?  Runners were already rather supportive of one another.  Guess what....this tragic event has created an even stronger bond among runners.  The Elites to the sub 4 hour runners, the wheel chair participants to the charity runners.  The moms, dads, grandfathers, grandmothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.  None with multimillion sports contracts.  All running 26.2 miles willingly (yes, we are a crazy sort of bunch to begin with).  

And you know what else?  I suspect we will see a rise in the number of runners out on the trails and streets this next year.  And an increase in the numbers running marathons. And an increase of runners trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon - pushing themselves beyond limits they knew they had inside themselves. 

And even more importantly, an increase in the number of spectators lining the courses, because in addition to all the news being covered by the networks, this past week has also drawn attention to the amazing athletes that are just like you and I; that live in every town, city and village across our country.  And each are supported by family and friends.  

Yes, I'm incredibly sad by this event.

Yes, I am angry that my different families were impacted.

And yes, I'm going to keep running marathons!

Who wants to join me???

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