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Between the Lines: Runners First

The Boston Marathon and its community endure.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It must have been a grand morning for most of the runners. Save some pre-race jitters and whatever last-minute scrambling it took to get to the starting line in Hopkinton, the hardest part—the months of training—was over. Waking to clear skies and cool temperatures, no doubt most marathoners greeted April 15, 2013 with excitement and hope.

The day may have felt similarly like the last leg of a long journey for family and friends. To be close to a runner, particularly before a big race, takes a form of endurance not unlike that required in running itself—a tolerance for discomfort, for gratification denied or at least postponed, for all the inconveniences that arise with the discovery that building fitness is exhausting work.

Marathoning incudes a kind of tunnel vision—runners see the goal literally at the end of a long road lined with cheering crowds. After arriving at the start last year, many runners and wheelchair athletes likely would have spent at least a moment visualizing what lay ahead of them, seeing themselves running down Route 135 out of Hopkinton or past the fire station in Newton, where the course takes a hard right off Route 16 onto Commonwealth Avenue at the beginning of the race’s famous hills, or down Beacon Street through Brookline, past Fenway Park and into Kenmore Square. Some athletes no doubt dared even to visualize themselves running the last quarter mile, down Boylston to the finish.

Whenever I think about what happened at the end of the 2013 Boston Marathon, I think about how the day started. It’s hard not to cry for the people who suffered most directly from the bombings on Boylston Street, but I also mourn for all the ahtletes and the people supporting them that day—a running community that truly extends around the world. We awoke that morning with hope and good will in our hearts and went to bed with our hearts broken.

An old running buddy of mine once told me that being a runner made the rest of his life seem easy. We were young runners at the time and I knew what he meant: to someone with the grit to run a marathon, the daily chores of living can seem like no big deal.

My friend is older now, and he knows that being a runner doesn’t make life easier. I just heard from him when he reached out for the charity he’ll be running for next week. He’d promised himself he was done running the marathon, but his kids—Bostonians who grew up watching their father run—enlisted him to help raise money for Team MR8, a foundation created in memory of 8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the explosions.

Next Monday, runners everywhere will again look to the Boston Marathon with hope and good will in their hearts, inspired by this resilient race and the community it represents.

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