I don't do big tragedies well, never have and probably never will. My heart breaks and all that passion comes out it unexpected ways. So yesterday's cowardly and senseless act at the Boston Marathon finish line is no exception only this time my anger and pain was very different.
Boston is MY race. Not because I've ever run it but my brother has run it 31 times. For the last 5 years I have worked the Mile 18 hydration station making sure runners' needs are attended to and have walked more than my share of hurting runners to the med tents a quarter mile away. I aggressively rake the discarded cups from the road before it turns to a messy paper maichê carpet, often thanked by the later runners who make a point of saying, "This is the cleanest bit of road I've run on all day...."
So it is fitting that I took this photo, my last of the day as I worked, of "the juggler." Every year this guy does the whole route while juggling and is often the signal to us the road is about to reopen and we need to finish. He was late this year and with a bunch of noobs in charge of the water station who were trying to do things by the book instead of listen to the experienced folks, I was concerned he wouldn't make it. A couple of us were there to greet and applaud him.
A moment later 3 police cruisers raced past with sirens blaring and the news began to reach us.
In my mind I was calculating where my brother might be. He had gone through about 45 minutes to an hour earlier and I was wondering about his pace. I was thinking about his usual pacing and trying to factor in he had run the Paris marathon a week earlier and was in better shape but might be more tired. I was praying he was no further than Kenmore Square when they stopped the race.
Having ridden my bike to the hydration station, about every quarter/half mile or so I had to stop because someone else was calling me and I won't ride and talk on the phone at the same time.
"Do you know where <insert name of family or friend here> is?"
"Are you and Pi safe?"
"Where are you on the course?"
I was also waiting for news on friends who were on the course running, watching and working. I was thinking about my friends who work for Marathon Sports, where the first bomb went off.
It was the longest bike ride home I have ever had. And much of it was in tears.
As I sat in a pub with fellow Mile 18 workers with a beer, eating fried food and transfixed on the news, my twitter and Facebook feeds I saw a call for me to check in. I responded to a tweet from my husband about my brother's status and another friend replied he was not only glad that my brother was OK but that I had checked in. Social media at it's finest hour - getting the word out quickly and easily to friends and family with a few keystrokes reminded me that I do indeed love technology.
Last night I originally tweeted, "Emotional eating may not be the answer but beer and cookies seem like a good idea right now."
Turns out it was because a lot of my anger began to redirect itself. Do I still want to literally beat the shit out of the coward(s) that did this? Yes, but it's back in the box where it belongs and my compassion and healing were unleashed with each sip of Guinness and bite of fresh peanut butter cookies from the local supermarket bakery. BTW a thank you to the guy at the Packie who let me weep a bit and tried to comfort me as I bought the Guinness. That helped diffuse things too.
I post this photo for a simple reason. This pair of runners will be forever remembered for crossing the finish line as the bombs detonated. It is NOT Rick and Dick Hoyt (who were hurting when they came through Mile 18 much later). I don't know who these runners are, but if someone does, please let them know there is a photo of them where they can remember the triumph of their accomplishment instead of the horror surrounding their ending.
Also let them know that I apologize for not celebrating them the way I should have when I realized they were not team Hoyt. I have met the Hoyts several times over the years and I did not mean to diminish this pair's accomplishments. It's just that moment when you're like "Hey!" when you think you see a friend only to have a stranger stare at you and you feel silly. I gave a cheer of encouragement, but I could have been more enthusiastic and for that I apologize.
I watched them and the wheel chair racers the same way I do every year, as a reminder that what does not kill us should make us stronger. There are the blind runners who are tethered to sighted runners that come through, the people on blade runner style prosthetics, wearing "survivor" shirts for beating cancer and those wearing "In Memory of..." shirts for those who didn't.
Each year I remember that, even though I pretty much suck at this whole running thing. I love it so much and keep at it, but I'm fat and slow and have made peace with those facts. It's cool but I have felt like a piece of me has been dead since that day I last ran when the plantar fasciitis brought tears to my eyes getting out of bed in the morning. For months I slept in that uncomfortable and stupid brace but I have feared tying on my shoes and taking those first steps. It's been gone for months now, but I have been afraid of it coming back and started training for a Century ride instead. Today I will run, fear is no longer an option for me.
At the expo this year, I picked my Boston "pun" shirt. In the past I have had picked out "Will Run for Chowdah," "Will Run for Lagah," "Boston, it's wicked pissah" and "Heart Breakah." (The only year I didn't buy one was the "Wicked Fast Runnah," year because I'm not.) This year it prophetically read, "To Hill and Back."
I run on Heartbreak Hill, which is a misnomer as it's really a series of hills. I care for runners as those hills start to take a toll on them between the fire station and Newton City Hall.
One thing I have always said about the marathon, how can you not love a race where the logo is a unicorn head floating over a sea of jelly donuts? What a great sense of whimsy and inspiration for making the impossible possible.
Seriously, the mascot is a unicorn named "Spike." Last year I saw a stuffed Spike at the Adidas booth and HAD to have him. I got the last one they had on Sunday afternoon and he saw me through my MTELs this past year and has been there when I felt down. This year, the yellow shirted Spike caught my eye. She looked like she was wearing a ladies shirt instead of last year's mens shirt, so I decided Spike needed a girl friend. I'm glad he has a friend to get him through now. They sit here with me as I listen to Flogging Molly sing about living through the IRA years in Ireland before I go out for my first run in almost 6 months.
Boston will get through this. Hold us in your prayers and thoughts, but do something practical. Give blood, the Red Cross always needs it, and then put it on your calendar again and again and again. Volunteer with a group like Back on My Feet if you're a runner. Support a worthy charity with your time and money. Get off your ass and start being more active if you're not already. Hell, we're Bostonians and if you think getting your leg blown off by a coward will stop some of these runners, you're wrong. We're the Massholes fighting with our insurance companies for a blade runner attachment so we can run the course next year - and years after - to let the terrorists know they lost because we're not scared, we're pissed. You think messing with New Yorkers was kicking over a hornets nest, just wait and see what what we're made of here in this port city. I can guarantee you Boston just got harder to get into than it ever was.
About 250 years ago we fired the shot heard round the world bringing down the world's superpower at the time, which is why we run a course carved for only the strongest on Patriot's Day. We even ran it through a hurricane a few years back, it will take more than a coward's pipe bomb to stop us.
What has really helped put this all in perspective for me were the words of Patton Oswalt yesterday when he posted about his reaction to what happened in Boston. He ended with, "So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you and we always will.'"
I'm going for a run now.