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Boston

I was supposed to be in Boston on Monday. Cheering at the finish of the marathon for friends, with friends. But chaos at work on top of  several other running trips in the next few months forced me to cancel my trip at the last minute.

This would have been my first year as a spectator at the race. I’ve run the Boston Marathon twice before. Until last week I would have told you that I’d probably run it again. Now I know that I definitely will.

I’ve kissed that finish line. I’ve stumbled across it, overcome with the fatigue and joy that only the challenge of the course and the support from the city can deliver. I’ve hugged family and friends at the very spot the bombs went off. The images on the news are horrifically real to me because that scene, on a much more peaceful day, has been my reality.

But not once over the last 36 hours have I thought what if that was me. I don’t feel fortunate that I wasn’t there. And I won’t be scared to toe another start line or to cross another finish. That I’ll be doing both of these things is as certain as the fact that I’ll be on a bus back to Hopkinton next year.

But I can’t stop thinking about the number of friends I had in Boston-so many that it was terrifying in the wake of the bombs because I had trouble remembering everyone I needed to check in on. And I can’t stop thinking about the loved ones who have been waiting for me at the finish every year that I’ve turned the corner and run into Copley Square. These are the what ifs that have haunted me since I saw the news on Monday afternoon. These are the what ifs that make me so angry and so sad and so hopeful that justice will be served to the person or people who attacked my friends and my family.

My heart is so heavy for the victims that did not escape this senseless act of violence. I’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out to me and my family to make sure I’m okay. I haven’t known how to answer their calls and texts, because while I’m physically fine and wasn’t even in Boston, I am most definitely not okay. Several people are hurt, critically injured and dead, and they’re all runners and the people who took time off from work, traveled great distances, and stood for hours yesterday to selflessly support our community and the people they love.

One of my friends asked why I seem so much more affected by this than our other friends in DC. “I can’t stop thinking about horrible this is,” she said, “but the way you’re reacting seems like someone attacked your friends and family.”

The reason that I haven’t been able to control my emotions since Monday is because someone did attack my friends and family. And even though I am grateful that everyone I know personally is safe and survived that attack, it makes me sick that they were attacked. And the victims, who I’ve never met and don’t know the names of, seem like friends and family because they are part of our incredible community. This tragedy feels so personal but so global because Boston is an event that touches everyone. No matter how far away you live from the city, I bet you knew someone at the marathon. And even if you fall into the large camp of people who can’t tell you if there is a marathon in their hometown, I bet you know about Boston.

It’s not an accident that we so often shorten the name of this race to simply “Boston”, because this event is as much about the city and the people who pour out to celebrate the marathon as it is about the race and the runners.

A number that I can’t get out of my head this week: 500,000.

500,000 is the number of people who swarm to the sidelines every Marathon Monday to lose their voices and clap their hands raw cheering on a bunch of strangers as we run from Hopkinton to Boston. Boston is not special because the 26.2 miles into the city are so spectacularly beautiful. Or because the aid stations are so well stocked. It is an unbeatable, unforgettable, must-run marathon because of the 500,000 people who line our 26.2 mile journey into the city. Ask anyone who has ever run Boston to tell you about the marathon, and they will answer with stories about the people. And what gets me the most and absolutely crushes my soul, is that these spectators were the targets. Spectators like my mom and brother and best childhood friend, who woke up when I woke up to get on a bus to the start, and took turns running into a coffee shop to stay warm, so they could have a front row spot when I crossed my first Boston finish line nine and a half hours later. Spectators like my dad, who drove 16 hours in one day to watch me run for 30 seconds to complete my first 50 miler. Runners can be selfish with the amount of training and racing we demand to run. But the people who are on the sidelines and waiting at the finish, are there for no other reason than because they love us. There are no words that convey how fucked up it is that someone would intentionally hurt these people.

The last time a national tragedy hit so close to home was when Gabby Giffords was shot. At the time, I was working for a Congressman and frequently traveled with him to the type of events in his district that were similar to the scene of the tragedy in Tucson. Hearing the news about the Congresswoman devastated everyone who worked on the Hill, whether or not we knew Gabby and her staff. These were our people, our family, and all of a sudden our world was shattered and everything felt much more unsafe.

But at the risk of sounding callous, as tragic as that was, the fact that it happened was not shocking. It was horrific. And terrible. But we expect that these unforgiveable acts of violence will be driven by politics and ideology and religion because we see it happening across the world every day.

We don’t yet know why this attack happened. But at face value, this tragedy is so shocking and so disturbing because it was a senseless attack on an event that is not inherently divisive. The beauty of our sport is that it is one of positivity, strength, perseverance and shared accomplishment. Running offers something different to everyone but it is always something that is fueled by good. People use miles to achieve goals they once thought impossible, to reach personal bests, for good health, to help overcome or cope with life-threatening illness, to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost, to raise funds for countless charities close to their hearts, or for the pure joy of spending time with friends who also love lacing up and hitting the road. Running is a sport where competitors are friends and respect one another. Just think about one of the many beautiful moments that got muffled by this tragedy: when Kara Goucher crossed the finish and immediately asked “how did Shalane do?” No one has an enemy in a marathon. Just like everyone in every remote corner of the globe knows someone who was in Boston, everyone knows someone who has become a better person because of running, and that is why so many people are on the sidelines to cheer us on.

One of the things that’s made coping with this so hard is that I feel completely helpless. I want to do something, other than continuing to be sad and angry and grieve for Boston. The only things I can think of that even begin to honor the people hurt by this tragedy, are to spread the good of this sport, to find ways to be as generous and selfless and loving as the spectators who come to race after race for us, and to show up in Boston next year.

So much love and so many hugs to Boston and to our entire running community.

61 Responses to Boston

  1. Monday was a terrible day. I was in tears as soon as I heard. We were supposed to be in Boston but decided not to go this year because we are saving for a wedding and I was injured so I didn’t requalify. Where i was standing last year is where the bombs went off this year. If we would have went, I would have went to that exact same spot.

  2. Best piece I have read on what happened in Boston. Thank you for writing what so many of us are thinking.

  3. well said!

  4. You have put into words what I have struggled with – Why this affects me so much. We are one big running family, and not everyone knows the depth of the sadness we feel. Thank you, Emily!

  5. This is so wonderfully composed. You nailed everything on the head. Ugh this world is so messed up.

    So glad you plan to run it next year. Help Boston heal!

  6. I’ve been trying to figure out why I felt so personally attacked as well – and you just put it into words for me. I too was fielding calls and texts all day to make sure that we were safe…and I too didn’t know how to respond.

  7. Great piece. I am not getting over it well either (nor do I intend to). When I hear coworkers in the hall sharing a joke I want to yell “What is wrong with you? Don’t you realize what just happened? Someone tried to kill my friends!” Is that selfish? Do I care? I guess all we can do for now is honor those lost or injured, take care of each other and try to clear our minds with a nice long run.

  8. Thank you Emily for this wonderful post. I too have been trying to figure out why I feel the way that I do, how I am supposed to feel, and how to cope with the events that occurred on Monday. I also feel the need to DO something, and I have been struggling to try to find that thing. What I want to do is keep running and keep working hard to achieve running Boston one day myself. Thank you for putting into words how so many of us in the running community are feeling.

  9. [...] could talk about my anger that these attacks focused on the spectators, but Emily does it so well in her post, you’ll just have to go there.  Mom, I love you, thanks for joyfully rising before the sun [...]

  10. My coworker asked me the same thing (why I seemed especially upset) and you have beautifully put into words the answer that I couldn’t sum up.

  11. Beautifully said, Emily. All the thoughts that have crossed my mind are exactly the ones you’ve shared. <3

  12. Very very very well said. I was at Hopkinton volunteering at bag check early that morning and the marathon I experienced, is NOT what happened. It felt like two separate days. Everyone was so happy and filled with excitement in Hopkinton, only to have it ruined by this horrible tragedy. We’re ALL affected, whether we were at the finish line or knew someone there, or not. The entire city of Boston is recovering right now. The feeling of despair is palpable right now. I was lucky – all my loved ones are accounted for, but not everyone is. Boston is such a tight-nit community – I think everyone knows someone who was either down there, on the course spectating, running, are at the hospitals taking care of the injured, etc. Continue to pray and spread the word about the amazingness of Boston.

  13. Thank you Emily. Your words illustrated so perfectly exactly what I, and so many others, have been feeling and have not been able to express.
    Runners and the spectators who tirelessly support us are one family. From state to state, across a nation, and around the world. Beautifully written. Thank you.

  14. Well said. I was waiting for you to post and your well thought out peice was exactly what i wanted to hear. Thanks Emily.

  15. Exactly.

  16. This might be the best post you’ve ever written. Made me tear up.

  17. I loved this post. You described my emotions SO well. We are one big running family!

  18. I followed a link from another blogger, and thank you. I’m from Boston, now living in Dallas, but I have family and friends there. Everyone I know is safe, though one friend was at the finish line as a spectator when the explosions happened. She’s safe but shaken. I’m feeling so defiant, and I have a half marathon in Eugene at the end of the month. I won’t be afraid to run it, bring it on!

  19. Thanks Emily <3

  20. You hit the nail on the head, Emily. I have loved loved loved spectating on Patriot’s day for years- it is truly the best day of the year up here. Finally this year I got my courage up to run it for the first time, and the crowds were exactly what everyone says they are. The “before” part of the day made me SO proud to be part of this city and this event. I was stopped a half mile before the finish, but I hope that you can gather from all of the reports that the spectators changed from being motivating to supportive, bringing food, water, trash bags, blankets to those of us who were stopped. That made me even prouder of this city. I am so angry at whoever is behind this, and especially for targeting our loved ones… but they picked the wrong city, and the wrong group to mess with. We are resilient, and the love coming from all over the world, and the clear support to continue this tradition, I think is a huge aid and victory on its own. Thanks.

  21. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Emily. As a New Yorker, it immediately brought me back to 9/11, and as a runner, it felt like an attack on my entire community. I’m still hoping to qualify for Boston someday and will without a doubt run it if I do.

  22. Really well said. I started shaking when I first heard and frantically texting friends I knew would be out watching the race. Thankfully they were all OK, but I still can’t wrap my brain around why this could have happened? I actually did think about the what ifs. I jokingly refer to my boyfriend and my parents as my “support crew” for races, and they’re always there for me at the finish line. I can’t imagine how I would’ve felt if something happened to them and my heart absolutely aches for people whose support crew was hurt or killed. So senseless and upsetting. I missed qualifying by 2 minutes last year and am more determined than ever now to get to Boston, cross that finish line and show whoever did this that they can’t stop this community. Runners are too strong to let this stop us.

  23. Nicely written Em!

  24. If anyone can donate to OneFund, please do: http://onefundboston.org/ It was set up by the Gov of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Boston. All donations will go to the families affected by Monday’s horrible events.

  25. What you say about our spectators and how wonderful they are is sooo true! I don’t feel worried for myself but for those who come to cheer for me.. and the others – the supporters. Its so hard to put into words my feelings – so I appreciate your post!

  26. Beautiful written, Emily!

  27. An interesting perspective on it all–thanks for writing this!

  28. So well said, thank you.

  29. This is really well written and really get’s the the heart of what makes this so tragic. I’ve been struggling so much this week trying to understand why this has affected me so much while everyone else seems to just be going about their lives. I wish I could do something too, but am struggling to figure out what I can do that would actually make a difference

  30. Thank you for your kind words, Emily! xoxo

  31. What a beautifully written, touching and personally insightful piece. My heart goes out to you and your loved ones. New York stands behind Boston, especially now
    Xxx

  32. truer words could not be spoken. glad everyone you knew are all physically ok

  33. Thanks for writing this Emily.

  34. Well said. Thanks Emily for putting into words what many of us feel. We’re not alone in feeling helpless but I find comfort in the way that the running community, sport industry, Bostonians, and everyone around the world are coming together in support of those who were more deeply affected. After countless years of volunteering, my resolve to get in the pack and run the race is stronger than ever. I hope to see you at the starting line!

  35. This is absolutely beautifully written and a tribute to all runners and their families and friends. I hope it is published nationally. It speaks to how so many of us – - even non-runners, are feeling about the tragedy, the incredible dedication of runners and the love that participants and spectators have for Boston!

  36. Exactly how I feel. I was supposed to be cheering for friends at the finish line as well, but had to cancel last minute. All I keep thinking is “what if?” I’m just glad to have running friends and running bloggers who understand the grief that’s difficult to put into words.

  37. Thank you for putting into words what so many are feeling right now.

  38. well said my friend. like you said, it doesnt even make sense.

  39. That is so well-said. Thank you. Would you mind if I linked to this post on my blog?

  40. Absolutely beautiful. Praying constantly for the victims. This tragedy has made me all the more determined to one day qualify for Boston and show terrorists that they haven’t won because we refuse to be terrorized.

  41. This is so well said. Thank you.

  42. I have teared up about Boston but haven’t broken down and cried…until I read this post. Everything you said about the spectators is so true. An 8 year old boy cheering on his father and dies. A young man cheering on his girlfriend and loses both legs. Spectators stand around for hours just so we can have that one moment to see them cheering for us. I will never forget my husband and mom coming to my first race and how I felt when I saw them before the finish. How I would feel if something had happened to them….unimaginable

  43. This is great. Best thing you’ve written. Thank you.

  44. Amen, Emily. Amen. I burst into tears when I turned on the TV, and spent most of the afternoon and evening sobbing. I knew why for all of my own personal reasons, but you put into words the greater why for all of the running community – the runners, the spectators, the organizers. Thank you. Deepest hugs and (maybe also) a growler of Sam Adams to cry into :)

  45. [...] Sweat Once a Day, Boston [...]

  46. So well said. Boston is my favorite city and running is my favorite sport. Both are made up of strong people who will not let these hideous acts change that – your post only makes me feel even more sure about that. Keep on racing!

  47. [...] Boston by Emily  [...]

  48. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling. Like i’m mourning a great loss. I’m glad to know I’m not alone or being exceedingly dramatic. It feels like such an incredibly cruel violation of our peaceful and happy community. And my heart goes out especially to the runner’s who will undoubtedly feel guilt for the injuries suffered by their friends and family there watching them. It all breaks my heart. Thanks for writing this. First piece I’ve read on this that completely communicates my feelings through this all.

  49. Words failed me for most of the day when I heard about the tragedy; I still don’t know what to say. I do hope you go out there and run Boston next year and every year; we can’t let them stop us!

  50. So well said, Emily – I’m so glad your mom linked to this. You put into words so many things that were going through my mind.

  51. Really well said Emily, I’ve been struggling to put Monday’s events into words myself…

    I’m still just shocked that what should have been the greatest day in so many runners’ lives turned into such a tragedy. Now that I’ve had a few days to compute I just think, where do we go from here? A friend of mine said we should take our cues from the older gentleman who was knocked down by the first blast on the way to the finish line. He took a moment, laid on the pavement and tried to get his wits about him. Then, he got up and finished running his race.

    Luckily, running is one of the most cathartic actions on the planet and Boston represents THE BEST of running. So, while this week’s events aren’t going to go away, to feel better… just run!

  52. [...] you everyone for your kind and thoughtful comments and tweets in response to my blog post about Boston. When I wrote it, it was a therapeutic way for me to release some raw emotions, but when I posted [...]

  53. Your Boston post is great. I was at the finish line, having just crossed 5 min prior. Of all finish lines to linger at, take pictures at, and marvel at, Boston was it. Having the biggest runners high of my life turn to the biggest emotional low of my life is still something I’m having difficult putting down on paper. Posts like yours show that as a running community, we are all in this together and there are people across the country who are feeling for the city and everyone affected. Thanks.

  54. [...] Boston [...]

  55. [...] event had struck such a chord with me, I turned to other runners’ thoughts on the event and a passage from fellow blogger stuck with [...]

  56. Thats how i felt too Emily. Those bombs didnt just attack those people there that day. They attacked what i love to do, what i feel safe doing, and what ties me to a greater community.

    Before the race I wasn’t sure if i would want to do Boston again next year – now i am definitely, 100% sure i will be there towing the line in 2014.

  57. This is so well-said. I had the same thoughts in my head about why this was hitting me so hard. It’s not like I’ve been to Boston or (realistically) will even come close to qualifying to run, but it’s the fact that this could be ANY race ANYwhere. This could happen to anyone. It’s scary.
    Back in 2005, I participated in the Army 10-Miler, where it became apparent at mile 7 we had completely diverted from the course. Turns out, there was a suspicious package around mile 8.5 which wasn’t cleared in time for the runners, so the lead runner just improvised. After finishing the “first-ever, unofficial Army 11.5-Miler” and finding out the reason for no water stations the last 3 miles, I was shocked. That race has a RIDICULOUS amount of security. And it almost happened there. So you just never know.

  58. [...] Boston (from Sweat Once a [...]

  59. wow…beautifully put, thank you

  60. Hi Emily! Long time no comment (for me), but I had to share my thoughts with you. I’ve read your post a couple times now, along with many others, that strive to reflect on the terrifying, exhausting emotions of last week’s tragic event.

    Yours resonates strongly with me because I couldn’t explain why I seemed to be taking this tragedy so hard, much harder than some of my other friends. You accurately summed it up with this: “The reason that I haven’t been able to control my emotions since Monday is because someone did attack my friends and family. ”

    Thanks for putting into words the thoughts I couldn’t.

  61. …never mind, you’re not worth it.

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