The tragedy at the Boston Marathon earlier this week was a crushing blow to Americans everywhere. Runners know themselves better than anyone, and a college friend of mine who is a runner (and also a Yankees fan) wrote a beautiful column the other day that best exemplified their unyielding passion for the sport, even in the face of adversity.
With her permission, I'm sharing it below. It's worth a pause in the site's many writings about the long grind of the baseball season to read her words:
Runners' spirits will not break
by Jenny Donoghue
The tragedy that occurred today at the Boston Marathon really hit home for me. I’ve never run Boston before, but I have completed two marathons and over two dozen organized distance races in the past three years on stages very similar to that of Boston, with thousands of runners by my side and just as many spectators lining the streets to support us. For those of you that have never run a marathon, let me give you a brief background on what it’s like: completing 26.2 consecutive miles of nonstop running is perhaps one of the most emotional and personal experiences imaginable.
When you’re out on that course, it’s nothing but you and your thoughts for the 2.5 or 4 or 7 hours that you’re running. It doesn’t just take physical stamina and endurance to run a marathon – it takes willpower, determination, and sheer emotional and mental strength. The moment you cross that finish line is the most vulnerable you’ll ever be. It takes months of nonstop training to be able to conquer this feat, and on the day of your race, you refuse to let anything stop you. And for many long distance runners, myself included, crossing that finish line of the Boston Marathon is the ultimate bucket list goal. There were about 27,000 people lined up to knock it off their list today, prepared to not let anything stop them.
Which is why it hurt my heart today to see that people WERE stopped. Whether it was because they were directly injured as a result of the explosion, or if it was because they were stopped before they could reach the finish line, they couldn’t complete the race of their dreams because someone decided it was acceptable to set off those bombs and attempt to ruin this year’s event.
The thing the attacker didn’t realize, though, is that the spirit of the distance runner is indestructible. How else do you think we can convince ourselves to push forward for 26.2 miles straight without giving up? We have practiced relentlessly and mastered the art of resilience better than almost any other kind of person on this planet. There is a hill at mile 21 of the Boston Marathon that is actually called "Heartbreak Hill," and every single Boston completer defeats that hill en route to the finish line, without being broken. We have proven time and time again that we possess some of the strongest wills imaginable to mankind, and so it’s a mystery to me why these attackers thought that they could break us, today of all days.
Instead, the world witnessed exactly the opposite happen. Runners and non-runners alike joined together to do everything within their power to support those affected by the tragedies of this afternoon. Local residents and businesses opened up their doors to provide shelter for runners and spectators. Law enforcement rushed to the scene, and they were able to successfully locate and dismantle a third explosive, likely preventing even more destruction. There have even been reports of runners finishing the race and continuing on to hospitals in order to donate blood for victims in need. Does this give the appearance of a divided, defeated community? To me, this looks like precisely the reverse.
I’ve heard and read a lot of peoples’ reactions to today’s events, and I have observed, many times, people remark that they have no faith left in humanity. I can’t possibly understand this. Yes, what happened today was gruesome and unthinkably horrible. Any time something catastrophic like this happens, it’s extraordinarily difficult to focus on the good. But we must keep in mind that the act that was carried out today was the result of the actions of a single person or singular group of people. The overwhelming majority of people are just like you and me – devastated to witness such a catastrophic occurrence at an event purely dedicated to rejoicing over the tremendous accomplishments of thousands of individuals.
And while there were a few individuals who set out to cause harm at today’s race, there were exponentially more who rushed to aid and support the victims after the disaster. We did not let evil triumph over us today, despite its presence in Boston this afternoon. It will take time to fully recover from this, but the human race is resilient, and people are inherently good. The bad ones among us will NEVER come out on top.
What will happen with this race in the future? There’s no way to say for certain at this point, but I predict that the Boston Marathon will be held as scheduled next year, and it will be better and stronger than ever. People won’t flee from Boston out of fear; rather, they will flock to the city and its race to pay homage to their running brethren who lost their lives or their ability to run as they attempted to fulfill their dreams. The Boston Marathon will continue to be a celebration of achievement, and it will also become a commemoration for those who were injured and those who sprung to action in an effort to help everyone affected by the tragedy of this 2013 event.
We will not let our spirits be broken. We will carry on, and we will run with our Boston brothers and sisters in our hearts and in our minds.
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