Boston holds a special place in the hearts of runners. The legends and mythology is passed on from runner to runner in books, movies, and stories told between haggard breaths on group runs. Names like Salazar, Switzer, and Mutai are repeated and passed on. The stories are of struggle, equality, a new life in an African village, and everyday runners who push a little harder to be able to qualify and run through the streets of Boston on Patriot's Day. The Boston Marathon pushes people to go faster than they thought they could, it is our proving ground, a benchmark, and if you are fast enough to don that bright blue and yellow jacket, to be a member of that club, you gain the respect and sometimes envy of other runners who know what it takes to earn that ticket.
And now someone decided to fuck with that.
When I think of the 2013 Boston marathon, I'll remember this tragic act of terrorism, but I'll also remember sitting at my computer, refreshing the results screen hoping to see an updated split from my friend, Jeff, clenching my fist and whispering, "come on man, almost there" to an empty office. Jeff's preparation for the Boston Marathon was like none I have personally ever seen before. Jeff dealt with the pain of 100 mile weeks, 6 minute miles, hundreds of them, dropping weight, the suffering of long runs, and the sacrifice of time spent away from his family. Jeff ran a 2:47 at 50 years old at the 2013 Boston marathon. No amount of hate and fear can take that accomplishment away from him. He is a runner.
Runners run towards a challenge, and I have a feeling that next year's Boston marathon will be the most competitive yet, the hardest to enter because of the demand to be able to run in that special place in solidarity with thousands of teammates, to take back the race. I had written off the race for me. I said I was done with road marathons, but after the attack at Boston, I want to go back. I'll need to be either faster or older, but now I'm determined to run this race, because running is not an individual sport and I want to be there in that group.
We are runners. We will not run away because of fear. Running is a triumph of the spirit over fear and pain, it's facing the doubt and pushing through it. It's the nerves at the starting line, the stomach that wants to jump through your throat, and the calm when the starting gun fires. It's the joy at the finish after facing the demons and the doubt and overcoming them, knowing that this inner battle is over and you are still standing. Today, we are all runners.