Why do people run marathons? That was one of the first thoughts that popped in my head when I started reading my feed. Do we run from something or towards something? Do we run simply to push ourselves and, by default, the human spirit? Do we do it because we are crazy, as so many people believe?
I have run four marathons, each of them with friends or relatives with whom I felt even closer with afterwards. Many people run for the camaraderie. I ran my first with my best friend who, because of a training injury, almost literally crawled the last five miles -- and he finished. As runners, we are all in this together and there is no point in the race when that is truer than at the finish line. Crowds scream and applaud. P.A. announcers call out names. Bands play.
Nothing explodes. Bombs don't go off. Runners don't get knocked off their feet. Spectators don't die.
Why do we run marathons? We run because it gives us a feeling of self-worth and validation, a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes we run from something -- the time running spent not thinking about the ills of our daily lives, a long run along the lake or in the hills clearing our minds. More often we are running toward something, toward a new beginning we know we will have when we are done. We run to the finish line to beat a goal or we run for a charity to raise money for something we believe in strongly.
Check out some of the running company websites like Asics or New Balance and this idea of human spirit comes through loud and clear. Does anything beat Just Do It or the product innovation that Nike has created around running?
See, that's the part of this tragedy that gets to me above all.
For a minute, put aside the obvious impact of a terrorist attack. Put aside the larger implications of the fact that we now need to worry about not only the grand American spectacle events like the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby but "soft" spectacles like marathons.
Forget all of that and put yourself in the mindset of the runners. The entire training regiment of a marathon is geared towards getting you to the last mile or the last quarter mile. Average runners, which most of us are, train our bodies and our minds to run through the wall so you can finish. Everything that you picture in your mind during the training leads you to crossing the finish line. Your adrenaline kicks in as you can visibly see the finish line. The culmination of months and months of training, time away from your family, by the way, comes together in that last 8-10 minutes.
And after this attack those 8-10 minutes can never be the same.
When you watch the horrifying video, the runners that aren't completely blown off their feet clearly recognize the blast as it takes place, the force pushing them in the opposite direction. People run away, yet at the same time their training and intuition kicks in and you can see some of them turning off their watch as they cross the finish line as if to say almost in priority order "I beat my time, what was that enormous blast?"
Is it a coincidence that this sort of attack happens on Patriot's Day, in a revolutionary city on Tax Day? Time will tell. What we do know is that this attack hits at the core of the American human spirit. People from all over the country coming together in Boston to push themselves and each other to do more, go farther and to accomplish something that the majority of people will never do.
For those who have run and completed marathons you may understand better than others this feeling I'm describing, this feeling of fellowship and pure jubilation as you cross the finish line. This attack soils the sanctity of that feeling forever, replaced now with sadness, fear and horrible images of blood-stained runners, brave BPD and first responders.
Marathon runners often run for causes -- at the Boston Marathon, the 26th mile marker was dedicated to the victims of the Newtown shooting, for example. I've run for Chicago's Lurie's Children Hospital. We run for causes so that in some way we can share what we feel with others even if it is through donations. See, the spirit of running lies in the core idea that its you and your shoes against the clock. That's it. No gear, no gym. Only a path or a road or a hill. Its the simplicity of it that makes running universal and the reason it will always BE universal.
So next week or next month, marathoners from London to New York will run for themselves, for each other, for the victims of this tragedy and for the human spirit. Why do people run marathons? Because they can. No matter what.