Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston Bombers will not ruin community spirit

It's taken me a few days to process what's happened in Boston.
I know everyone in the country has been affected by the horror. I feel a particular attachment to the city chosen to terrorize and the event used as vehicle to kill people.
In the mid-1990s I lived on Hemenway Street in Boston, about 1.5 miles from the bombing site, when I went to graduate school. I also lived in Somerville, about 7 miles from Watertown. Boston is a metropolitan area of many small cities. It's interconnected by the T and was hard to distinguish between Boston and Brookline or Cambridge and Somerville.
In my first year there I covered the Boston Marathon for the Wellesley Townsman. My job was to interview folks as they got to the top of gigantic hill near Wellesley College.
I don't remember what I wrote but I do remember the experience. As a runner, I understood the value of the exercise but I had no desire to run a marathon. I didn't run my own marathon until 10 years later and I chose a course with very few hills.
I loved my time in Boston and made great friends. It's an amazing city full of intelligent and compassionate people.
It's particularly bothersome to me that the bombers chose a marathon event to target for mass casualties. My husband and I talked about it today. When we saw the carnage at the Boston Marathon finish line I immediately thought of my husband and daughter waiting for me at the top of the last hill at the Detroit Marathon finish line last fall. I ran the half and my family members were there to cheer me on as I ran the last few hundred feet. I gave my husband and my daughter a hug and my husband whispered for me to finish strong. Strangers standing nearby yelled encouragement to me and it lifted my spirit. It really does. It's like you are running this event and you want to do well for other people other than yourself. You feel like these people have faith me and you don't want to let them down.
I told my husband that I didn't want to stop running half or full marathons. I didn't want these bombers to scare us from accomplishing our running goals.
My husband told me he and my daughter would be at every finish line of every race I ran. He said he'd be looking around for suspicious activity and making sure he didn't stand near any abandoned bags.
That may sound silly but it did make me feel a bit relieved. Thousands of people  take part in running races every weekend. I'm sure the bombers didn't think about the terror they'd strike in the hearts of runners world wide but they did. They didn't just violate the city of Boston but also damaged a sport that many of us do to maintain fitness and good health.
I hope that marathons continue unimpeded and with the joy they give the runners and the community folks who come out to cheer us on and support us in our brutal pursuits. The best part of a marathon is running by people who are unrelated to you and yet are cheering you on toward your victory. It's one of those selfless acts and it's particularly upsetting that the three people who died, Martin Richards, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu, were bystanders watching the runners and cheering them on.
They were there to support family or friends or just to enjoy a wonderful community event.

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