There have been ebbs and flows, months or years early on that I didn’t run, but for the most part I’ve been pounding pavement for the better part of thirty years as a runner. Running defines me. It is part of my person, who I am. As much as I am a wife, a mother, a, writer, a PR practitioner and a vegetarian, I am a runner.
I run alone mostly, in the dark stillness before dawn. I run without music and headphones because running time is thinking time. The hour of running is a time for reflecting, new ideas, planning out my day, problem solving and writing in my head. I sometimes surprise myself when I return home from my five-mile route and can’t remember having passed certain corners or run down specific streets, but I know have, as an hour has passed and I’m sweating.
Despite my love of solitude in running, I love the community and conversation around running. There’s nothing more interesting than a talking with another runner about the details of a specific race route, pre-race/post-race eating, shoe lacing, good bras, race strategy, results and even pooping. This commonality, the shared experience of running and racing is important to me. I’ve mentored novice runners and swapped tips with people who have run as long as I have. I wince when another runner talks about a bum knee, a tight hamstring or plantar fasciitis. We share the love and pain of running and the exhilaration of a race well run. Runners share the disappointment of a race that goes badly and the surprise and joy of placing in our age group. Runners are my community.
That’s just part of the reason the attack on the Boston Marathon was so painful. One of the three deaths in Boston was an eight–year-old boy. He was there, like many kids at races, to cheer on a parent. His dad is a runner.
Kids at races are the best and loudest yellers and the most enthusiastic sign wavers. They ring cowbells, blow whistles, give high fives and yell stuff to strangers like “You’re looking good!” and “Keep it up!” Kids who’d never think of picking up their room or handing a glass of water to an adult, willingly sweep smashed cups and pick up used Gu packages at aid stations.
Where else do kids line up in cheer groups and urge their parents to greater glory?
On April 15, when some hateful person(s) decided to intervene in the sport of running at one of America’s most revered races and killed a cheering kid named Martin Richard. I know from my own experience with the death of my son, that Martin’s parents will never be the same. They will grieve his death for the rest of their lives. I am quite sure, though, his dad will continue to run. Anyone who qualifies for Boston isn’t a quitter. He’ll probably run on his son’s funeral day—I did on my son’s. Each time now, when his dad heads down the chute to cross a finish line, looking around for his cheering people, as all runners do, he’ll think of his son and there will be less joy in the result.