I ran the Boston Marathon in 2003 and clearly remember the long, early morning bus ride out to Hopkinton, the anticipation in the air at the starting line, the Wellesley women at the halfway point, and the beauty of running downhill at the end of the race with downtown Boston in sight. I finished the race, went to the house where I was staying, took a bubble bath, took a nap, got up, and ate some creamy risotto as the sun began to set. It was so pure and so simple and so innocent…three things that couldn’t feel more sharply contrasted by the sights and sounds that happened yesterday.
As a human, my heart breaks today for the runners, the spectators, the families, the city, and the dreams that were shattered yesterday. And as a runner, I feel so sad that in an instant, the innocence of running a race was taken away. Beyond thinking twice about going to work and going to the movies and getting on an airplane and going to school, we runners may now be plagued by a shadow of doubt every time we step onto a race course.
But the resilience and unwavering optimism of humans — and particularly of runners I know — gives me hope that the simple joy of running will not be crushed by newfound fear of the unknown. In 2001 I stood at that starting line of the New York City Marathon — just a few months after the twin towers had fallen. People cheered and cried as the national anthem played before the race, and they then went on to pour their hearts out on the course. I was a little bit scared that morning — so many people in such a visible location just months after our national confidence had been shaken. But I showed up and ran the race and was proud to be a part of bringing New York City — my home at the time — back to its new “normal.” May this be the spirit of all races to come, even in the face of this tragedy. And may we find comfort in running because we can and peace in honoring those who can’t.