Boston Strong

Last Sunday I ran a half marathon. Nobody outside of my immediate family knew I was running as I wanted to remove all pressures and just enjoy the race. Despite some challenging weather, I ran well and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Even though on this occasion I knew there would be nobody there to cheer me on, I distinctly remember noting just how many people had braved the buffeting rain and strong wind to line the streets and support all the runners: children with hands outstretched to receive a high five; residents at doorways and garden gates with jelly babies to sustain weary runners; young and old alike at bus stops shouting encouragement at the tops of their voices. It was incredible and I felt jubilant.

On Monday evening I watched in disbelief as bombs ripped into the collective heart of the running community and that same group, the spectators who support us and provide encouragement just when we need it most, experienced unthinkable horror.

I had intended my next post to be a race report on my experiences last Sunday, but as I sat glued to my tv and computer screens to follow, uncomprehendingly, the horrific news from Boston, I realised that I would have to use my blog to try and set out some of my thoughts and feelings. And yet I couldn’t put those thoughts into words.

I felt sick. I felt confused. I felt angry. Why would somebody do this? Over the past few years, running has given me a huge extended family: I read blogs about running, I chat to other runners on social media, I have made new friends though running. Runners are tough but friendly, competitive but inclusive, determined but caring. Being a runner means that wherever we go in the world we have a ready-made connection with others. Being a runner means that we rely on the support of our friends and family both while we train and, crucially, on race day when the sight of a familiar face or the sound of our name being shouted can help us through the toughest of times as our legs feel weary and our spirits are low. Being a runner means that when we saw our sport and our supporters come under attack, we came together as one in defiance of those who sought to tear us apart.

As the week went on I read blogs and tweets posted by a number of runners and each one seemed to capture exactly how I felt: the confusion, the heartache, the inescapable feeling that this was personal. Each one thinking of races they had run and the supporters who had been there to cheer them on. Even as I read them, I still couldn’t find the words to set out how I felt – I’m still not sure that I can and apologise if this post is jumbled and disjointed – but the overarching message was the same: runners would unite in the face of adversity.

Despite my heart breaking at the sport I love coming under attack, I have felt truly humbled this week by the stories of how the running community has come together in support of the city of Boston. I read of runners weary from completing 26.2 miles continuing on to the hospital to give blood; I watched footage of people running towards the site of the blasts to help others in need; I read of runners wearing Boston marathon colours or other race T-shirts in a show of solidarity. Over the past few days runners around the world have shown their strength and resilience: they have stood by Boston, they have helped Boston, they have run for Boston. One oft-repeated quote said it all: if you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target.

Today I awoke to the news that the second of the two suspects in this atrocity had been captured. I shared in the rejoicing of the Bostonians whose lives have been forever changed by this unspeakable act of terror at their marathon, yet I cannot forget those scenes of fear and confusion I watched on Monday evening. I cannot forget those for whom the exultation of completing a marathon was changed to horror and anguish in a heartbeat. I will not forget those who were affected the most: those who were lost, those who were injured and those who battled to save lives and bring the perpetrators to justice.

We still don’t know why this happened. Perhaps in the days and weeks to come some answers will emerge; perhaps we’ll never know for sure. One thing we can be sure of is that in a time when individuals seek to instil terror, there is still plenty of good left in the world and if we ever doubt that, we should remember the way the world has come together this week in support of Boston.

Together, we can be Boston Strong.

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