Posts Tagged ‘boston’

Just Different

I didn’t solemnize this day with a moment of silence. I chose to honor the day with a hard, fast run. I am not even going to put a qualifier on that sentence like, “fast for me” or “relatively speaking”. I ran the exact same route I ran on 4.15.13, and just like a year ago today, I was inspired by Boston. One year ago, I posted the run to my DailyMile account, happy with a fast run on a cool cloudy day, thinking of Boston and wondering about the two American women elites that I was cheering for were doing. Today, I posted a run to my account, with similar themes, fast run, cool and cloudy, and it was all about Boston.

Just different.

It’s one year later and everything is a little different, except the route. It’s a familiar 5k route that tracks north and west of my office through the City before coming straight east back on Main Street to my front door.

How I think of Boston is different. Last year, for me, it was all about Shalane and Kara, the hype, their rivalry, their friendship, and their potential to win. This year, I think of the non-elites, the spectators, the first responders, and the hallowed ground that is a finish line of a race.

How I think of running is different. Before Boston, it was my time. My headspace. My freedom from my desk. My adrenaline rush. My solitude. This year, I recognize that I am a part of something that is the opposite of solitude. I am part of a community. Meg’s Miles reinforced that for me. Being a part of something greater than myself is a very gratifying feeling, but it comes with a personal sense of responsibility. I have to DO something when the community is assaulted like at Boston or when Meg Menzies was killed. You have to give back; I donated to the Boston One Fund and I donated money to Meg’s family. And I ran; however meaningless it might seem in the face of terror and death, those miles mattered to me and to the running community.

How I think of spectators is very different. Before Boston, I never gave much thought to the random strangers standing alongside a race route, cheering, clapping, ringing cow bells, holding clever signs. Now I thank them as I run. No one would have ever thought that cheering on runners in a race could be a potential risk to life and limb. Boston changed that, too.

Boston isn’t on my “Bucket List” or anything. I am not training to earn my “BQ” and I don’t feel it is something I will ever want to go chase down. But I don’t think any distance runner out there doesn’t feel that there is something special about Boston.

A pair of angry extremists tried to take away the magic of Boston. They left a mark, to be sure, but if their goal was to scare us all into submissive hiding, they utterly and completely failed.

Boston is too Strong for that.

Measured Response

I finished my 26.2 miles for Boston on a beautiful Saturday morning.

That particular hour and a half run gave me time to contemplate everything that has occurred in the past two weeks relating to running, racing, spectating, and the future of finish lines. The running community has rebounded and seems stronger and better than ever. The outpouring of love, support, and passion for our particular activity has been inspiring and healing.

The rest of it? The hyper-militarized response that was played out like a reality television episode of 24? The xenophobia and, I don’t know, is there a word for a phobia for religion? The rampant speculation? The assured increase in surveillance and of pall of suspicion cast over anyone who isn’t Stepford-like in their behavior? Not so much.

The long running debate between personal liberties versus general security will continue, but this certainly provided a black mark to the personal liberty side of the discussion. More surveillance cameras and drones and armed guards are coming to major races. Period.

Eh, I fell down the rabbit hole for about half a page there and went off the rails. The reality is that there are no easy answers to the question of “What is the appropriate response to an event like the Boston Bombings?”

I can’t speak for anything except my own response, which was to step up my mileage, buy a t-shirt with proceeds going to a Boston charity, paint my nails blue and yellow, and mentally commit to 2 half marathons between October and November.

I love running races. I especially love finishing them. I am grateful that I crossed the finish line at Hardywood last week without the slightest concern about my personal security floating across my mind. I was laughing with my best friend and looking forward to a relaxing post-race party. That is how a finish line should be.

Powerful Mojo

“You keep alive a moment at a time
But still inside a whisper to a riot
To sacrifice but knowing to survive
The first decline another state of mind
I’m on my knees, I’m praying for a sign
Forever, whenever
I never wanna die, I never wanna die,
I never wanna die, I’m on my knees
I never wanna die
I’m dancing on my grave
I’m running through the fire
Forever, whatever
I never wanna die
I never wanna leave
I’ll never say goodbye
Forever, whatever
Forever, whatever”

Walk – Foo Fighters

Music and running go hand in hand for me. I can run without music, but prefer not to. Occasionally, quiet, music-less runs are good for me, but I prefer to lose myself in lyrics and rhythm.

My playlists rotate songs in and out; Walk by the Foo Fighters is currently my most powerful weapon in my musical arsenal. I need to run an 8:40 pace for a couple of minutes on the treadmill? Better scroll through my playlist until Walk comes up. I need to push through the last half mile of a speed workout and my side is screaming, legs are on fire, the contents of my stomach up near my mouth, and eyes are blurred and stinging with sweat? Time to put Walk on repeat.

It won’t be that particular song forever. Last year, in the last 2 weeks before running the Instant Classic, my power song was “Shake It Out” by Florence + the Machine. It was “Some Nights” by fun. and “Dog Days are Over” (Florence again) leading up to the Richmond Half.

I am not really sure where I am going with all of this. This has been a powerful and difficult week. I am avoiding following much about Boston in the regular news media because they have all been so damn bad about doing their jobs. What I have been following is the stories of runners who were there, who finished, who didn’t, who helped, who ran away, and then the stories of runners taking back the streets, of people who opened their homes to the stranded visitors to the city who couldn’t get back to their hotels, and of runners lining up to donate so much blood, they actually were turning people away. I watched the video of the crowd at the Boston Bruins game sing the National Anthem. Those stories are more compelling to me than rampant speculation; they are powerful mojo.

I tried to donate blood this morning, but as I have documented here before, my iron levels are not good, and even 8 weeks of massive doses of iron supplementation still didn’t get my hemoglobin levels even close to the 12.5 level required to donate. A token effort, but a failure, nonetheless.

Another worthless token: I painted my fingernails and toenails blue and yellow, and so they shall remain at least until I have completed that OTHER worthless token: running 26.2 miles dedicated to Boston.

They are worthless tokens, the miles, the painted nails, the failed effort to donate blood. But to me, they are also powerful mojo. They don’t do jack to help the victims, the maimed, the grieving families. But they help make me feel connected to something that is real, something that is stronger than terror.

I have logged over 9 miles since Monday; every one of them with Boston on my mind, but not in some melancholy, depressed dark cloud. My mind keeps coming back to those lyrics posted above (and I am listening to them right now). It’s more about defiance. How dare someone attack my country, my people, my herd???

With apologies for the insensitive language, my response is, as worthless as it may be in the grand scheme: “Well fuck you, Slick. You don’t know who you messed with.”

A crowd singing the national anthem, runners flooding the sidewalks of Boston to reclaim their streets, people all over the world pledging to put in 26.2 miles, and wearing race shirts or blue and gold may only be worthless tokens, but I see them as tokens of defiance. Powerful mojo in the face of evil.

Run For Boston

I have been writing and deleting posts for weeks. I have nothing new to share, no interesting facts about what training I have been doing (hint: not a whole lot), no revelations, nothing that could be perceived as worthy of wasting time reading.

And then Boston happened. I have lots to say on the subject and have tried a couple of times to get those thoughts on paper. Maybe this time I will succeed.

I was following the details of the race as it went on; I was particularly following the elite women and their race, which ended right before my lunch time run. I was so inspired by their efforts, I knocked out 3 miles with an average pace in the 10:20s; less than half the speed of those elite women but for me, an average pace to be proud of.

You all know, of course, that a few hours later triumph became tragedy.

It doesn’t matter if you run 6 minute miles or 16 minute miles, you are a runner. And runners are a tricky lot. We compete against our treadmill “neighbors” and pay lots of money to race against each other to see who is the fastest, but at the same time, runners are the most selfless competitors I have ever seen. I took a fall last spring on a training run; three people stopped to check on me and give me a hand up. I saw a lady fall last winter; 4 of us spent 15 minutes with her trying to figure out how best to get her back to her vehicle. I’ve seen runners finish a race and then go back and find a slower friend and finish the race again with them. I have seen many examples of runners seeing another racer in distress and helping, even carrying them over the finish line.

Here is another thing about runners. We are a tough lot to scare. When getting up in the dark of winter and running long distances in unfamiliar areas becomes routine; or sweating under the blinding, burning sun on a lunch hour run in July hoping for a little shade on your route to avoid sun stroke is normal; or asking your legs to carry you farther than you drive to work is an exciting Saturday, then the way you define “cause for fear” gets a little distorted.

A finish line has never been a place to fear. Wondering if our loved ones who are cheering us on are safe has never met the definition of “cause for fear.”

Someone tried to change that on Monday. Someone tried to take that pure place of joy and triumph and turn it into a place of fear and uncertainty. What they succeeded at was in turning that one place into an abattoir on Monday; make no mistake. They succeeded in scaring the ever living shit out of us that afternoon. Absolutely.

But I believe we, as runners, as supporters of runners, and as Americans, are resilient enough to recover from the horror of Monday, and carry on into the future without carrying our fear with us. In fact, I know we are. Thanks to social media, runners from around the world are logging 26.2 miles together in support of Boston, of those who fell, of those who ran towards the fallen, of those who couldn’t finish, and of those who will never run again. Runners everywhere are wearing blue and yellow. Runners everywhere are signing up for races they wouldn’t have previously considered.

What happened in Boston was pure evil; the bombs were designed to inflict maximum damage, to maim and kill, and whether by design or by accident, the bombs seemed to target lower limbs of their victims. The irony (or whatever it is) is not lost on anyone.

My position is that we cannot let this event fundamentally change our community. If we do, evil wins. If we turn our finish lines into sterile, heavily guarded militarized zones where our friends and family are forced to stay away for fear for their lives, what would even be the point? Why even bother?

I reject evil, and I refuse to let evil win by embracing the terror it wanted to create. It was an act of terror, but it is up to us whether or not we will actually be terrorized.

I have a finish line to cross in 8 days, at the Hardywood Twilight 4 Miler, and I will cross it with my best friend and without fear.

The Runner’s Prayer
Lord,
Watch over me today as I run.
This is the day
and this is the time for the race.
Watch over my body.
Keep it free from injury.
Watch over my mind.
May I listen to the signals from within
as I enjoy the scenes from without.
Watch over my spirit.
Watch over my competitors.
Remind us that we all are struggling equally.

Lord,
Let me win.
Not by coming in ahead of my friends, but by beating myself.
Let it be an inner win.
A battle won over me.
And may I say at the end,
“I have fought a good fight.
I have finished the race.
I have kept the faith.”

Amen.