WHY I’LL RUN
the 2014 Boston Marathon: to triumph over evil.
This year, I didn’t run the Boston Marathon.
I crossed the finish line in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011. I ran it in the Hot Year. I ran it in the Monsoon Year. I collapsed at the finish line the year I dressed too lightly and got hypothermia. I ran it the year the Virginia Tech shooter opened fire sometime between the starting gun and the finishing line. I measure time in Boston Marathons.
This year, I didn’t run it. After they shaved five minutes off the qualifying time, I missed qualifying by almost exactly one minute. So this year, I stood like thousands of others, cheering on friends and strangers — and fighting back tears (I’m sappy that way) as I watched people sprint, hobble, fist-pump and occasionally crawl across the finish line.
I know the gruelling winter training regimen. I felt — literally felt — their pain and their elation.
I consider myself blessed in many ways — and this year, I am adding a new way: I’m blessed with friends who run fast. Blessed, because after my last running buddy crossed the finish line, I ceded my coveted spot against the metal barricade to another woman eager to snap photos.
It wasn’t until after I left that I got the frantic phone call from my husband, an emergency room doctor at the city’s biggest trauma centre, shouting: “Where are you?”
Once I confirmed that I had left the finish line, he babbled something about an explosion and hung up.
Hung up, because his ER was being transformed into a MASH unit, and his day into a nightmare.
Amputations, shrapnel, head trauma.
Spouses looking for spouses, parents looking for children. Blood. Lots and lots of blood. In all, more than 170 injuries resulted from the two blasts. So far, there have been three deaths.
For tens of thousands of spectators and family members, the question shifted in an instant from “Did he achieve a personal record?” to “Is he alive?”
With no cellphone service available (it was blocked by authorities, to prevent possible further detonations), there was no way to find out who was safe and who wasn’t.
Instead of posting our pictures on Facebook and Twitter, we began uploading them to federal authorities.
On Marathon Monday, as my running partner and I drove to Mile 8 of the Boston course — our first viewing destination of the day — we mused about my marathon next month in Vermont.
“You know,” I said, “I don’t think I’ll run Boston next year if I qualify. You have to get up so early and wait so long, and there are never enough bathrooms at the starting line.”
Now, there’s nothing I want to do more.
Next weekend, I plan to run 30 kilometres on the Boston Marathon course, finishing smack on the finish line, where I’ll pause for a moment to count my blessings.
And two weeks later, I plan to haul my weary muscles to the starting line in Hopkinton, Mass., where I’ll run 34 kilometres, finishing at the top of Heartbreak Hill.
And on every one of those kilometres, I’ll think about qualifying for Boston and running through that finish line next year — not because I’m fast, or talented, but because I want to be part of a community that celebrates strength and perseverance and the courage to triumph over evil.
As for my husband, who must now live with the poignant images of the damaged bodies he treated — bodies he fixed, and bodies he couldn’t fix — he plans to be there, too.
“I’ll be standing there,” he says, “in front of Marathon Sports, at the finish line, with my hands in the air.”
Because he’s just as angry and stubborn as I am.