Like everyone else I knew, around 8pm last night I went from casually browsing the internet whilst cooking my dinner after the gym to standing in front of the television; eyes wide, mouth hanging open, legs trembling and stomach sickened, trying to process the images of the Boston Marathon that I was seeing on the screen. It was a scene too close to home – the finish line of a major marathon lined with marshals in yellow jackets, flags, photographers, cheering crowds and tired yet jubilant runners taking their final steps to personal victory. I was standing wearing my purple Paris Marathon shirt; just 7 days before it had been me taking those final steps which made the scene all the more closer to home. I spent the rest of the evening glued to the coverage in horror, lost for words.
Boston is the everyday runner’s Everest – the holy grail of races for amateurs like us. Many runners will have spent years working towards a qualifying time for this special Blue Riband of races which makes it all the more galling that someone set out to destroy this unique race of prestige and achievement. Our sport is a community, a family which extends across borders; last week I spoke about finishing the Paris marathon surrounded by people from every country in the world – through language barriers we might not have been able to exchange much more than a knowing smile and a nod in greeting, but that’s all we ever needed to do to acknowledge our shared experience. The essence of this is present on every run; with every smile and nod to the strangers that you pass every night after work, with the fellow competitor who’d stop to help you if you tripped in a race, with the stranger who’d share some food on the trail if you’d run out. Violence and harm does not happen in running. That’s not how it works.
I feel as if my own family has been violated. My huge, tight-knit yet wide open to anyone family of support, positivity and love, where I turn to each day to escape the strains of life and work out my stress and my fears. To become a better person, a stronger athlete; the best version of myself I can be. Running is a world away from terrorism, fear, danger. We run to get away from the real world. This is our safe place and I am so angry that someone has destroyed it like this.
A finish line is one of the most amazing places in the world, full of happiness, achievement, hope, warmth, fellowship and support. At the finish line of a race we are supposed to discover that humans are so much stronger than we think they can be, not that they are more evil than we can ever imagine. What will happen to marathons and mass participation events now? Have the days of routes lined 5 deep with support come to an end? Will we look back fondly at event support in a few years in the same way we look back fondly now at being able to take a bottle of water through security in an airport?
Thankfully everyone I know from Fetch or blogs who was in the race or involved in it have reported they are safe and well. Twitter and other social media played a fantastic part in the proceedings yesterday by reporting news live and reuniting families when the phone networks went down, but now they’re a stream of the same images and articles and I can’t read it any more. I don’t know how I feel about so many graphic images of the wounded being broadcast in such a way – I know it is important to get news out but if it were my friends and family being shown in such dreadful states I can’t imagine how I would feel. Those poor people. I slept patchily last night, plagued by the images I saw over and over again; I can’t imagine how those who see these things in real life cope.
I’m sorry if this reads a disjointed and poorly constructed post, but I just wanted to write and get my feelings out of my head. I’m on my lunch break at work and I just I can’t watch the news any more; this could have been any race and any of my friends and family. Reports suggest that most of the badly injured and dead were supporters; our faithful and loyal supporters who come out and support our efforts again and again through wind and shine for hours on end. The people who have our backs without question in our endless, tiresome and sometimes selfish pursuit of excellence.
It has been said in many places this morning, but if terrorists are trying to crush the human spirit – marathon runners were the wrong group to target. They will not scare us, they will not stop us, they will not chase away our Boston dreams. Do your run today with those we lost and those who were harmed yesterday in your thoughts. I am meeting some friends after work for a few miles and we will run to honour them and their families.