Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A few notes

Hardly a day for blogging about how great the marathon went.  I obviously have no inside knowledge -- the bombs literally exploded while I was getting a post-race massage 1/2 mile away, and I knew nothing until returning to Boyleston Street -- but I do feel more impacted than I did after, say, Aurora Colorado or Newtown Connecticut, if only because that's about where P__ might have been standing had she come to cheer.

The ticker on CNN reports more on the 8-year-old boy killed.  His name was Martin Richard.  His mother and sister were also greviously injured.  A family came to watch Dad run a marathon and that family is now destroyed.  And that's a small part of the losses suffered yesterday.

I wonder why this is worse (to me) than when a disgruntled ex-employee shoots up an office or the like.  Even religious sectarianism does not offend me this much.  I get that "your people have oppressed my people for millennia and now we're getting you back."  (Millennia of being the oppressors is one reason I distance myself from the religion into which I was raised.)  I don't get attacking people who are doing nothing more than celebrating being healthy.

Maybe it's like an Olympic bombing, but even that at least can be explained as a political attack; the Olympics definitely are not above politics.  Athletes go to win gold for America and newspapers tally national medal counts.  Can yesterday's bombing be explained as political?  "Die, America"?  There is no more international event than the Boston Marathon, where the most recent U.S.-based (male) winner was 30 years ago.  That's why I have gone for three years -- it's a massive weekend party made up of we runners' compatriots from around the globe.  Every third person I greet while running Highway 135 to Highway 16 to Highway 30 to Beacon, Commonwealth, Hereford and Boyleston responds with a thick accent or merely a nod and a smile, not understanding what I said.  Running in Boston is like traveling -- everybody speaks my language a little, everybody is gracious, and everybody is different from me.

No good religious justification.  No good political justification.  So unless you spent your life being trod up on by skinny people, their families, and others who go to revel in their health, this is just hate.

I'm mad, with that kind of impotent rage that I feel every time bad people hurt good people.


  1. I'm going to be sour and I apologize in advance.

    Every reaction I have read to the Boston disaster ends with "let's keep running to show we can't be intimidated" (or the like).

    Everybody is missing the point. Runners didn't die yesterday. Their families and their supporters did.

    What we do is inherently selfish. At best I ask my spouse, or my mother, or my brother, or whomever, to stand around for hours in the cold, or the heat, or the rain, or whatever, for the privilege of carrying me home at the end, while I get all the glory. At worst I fly to odd corners of the country or globe to indulge myself while P__ stays home to do the taxes.

    After all that, were runners hurt yesterday? No. One guy appeared to fall over while finishing. Others weren't permitted to finish, though I would bet everybody who clocked through at the 40K point gets a medal. Who got hurt or killed? Children, friends, spouses . . .

    I don't understand the "we'll show you, we're going running!" mentality. Am I really going to say to P__, who spent two hours yesterday afternoon unable to reach me, that in order not to give in to the terrorists I have to go back to Boston next year?

    I don't think I'm canceling any upcoming events, but nor am I going to congratulate myself on my bravery for going running.

  2. I write as one of those family members/supporters. I don’t qualify as a runner of any sort, let alone someone who has qualified to run “the” Boston Marathon. But, I have had the privilege, excitement, joy, etc. (all these banal adjectives are insufficient to adequately capture the feeling or the adrenaline rush, but my brain is a little tired from the long day, so please just accept them in lieu of better words) of cheering on my brother as he ran his first Boston several years ago. He has since qualified for and run Boston a couple more times, along with numerous other marathons across the country. Whenever I can, I go and I join him and his running cohorts at the pre-race expos and pasta dinners. I plot out viewing locations along the course that will give me the maximum number of opportunities to actually see him running – Boston is hard in this respect since the course is all one long line, but races like Chicago are great because you can crisscross the course and fit in several viewings if you time it right. I register for the mobile updates that send me his pace during the race. I commit to memory what he is wearing. I drop him off in the early morning and then I get to do the fun part – all the cheering and spectating. I’ve always found it to be an energizing experience, but the atmosphere at Boston is literally electric. It is one big party and for those few hours it’s even enough to make me consider running.

    We, as the family members and supporters, make friends with the strangers staking out cheering spots next to us. We laugh, we yell, we shout encouragement to the strangers pounding the pavement in front of us, and we crane our necks and scan the multitude of faces when the pace of “our” runner is approaching. We feel an indescribable pride in that brief moment when we see our runner pass by – coupled with sheer happiness if our runner actually sees (hears, usually) us too. Either way, it is a happy time. You may get the glory, the hardware, and let’s be honest, the pain too – but we get the pride that comes with saying we were THERE to cheer on our father, mother, brother, sister, son, daughter, fiancé, husband, wife, best friend, college roommate, whatever the case may be.

    Thankfully, my brother wasn’t running Boston yesterday, but when I heard the news my heart sunk and I felt sick. My thoughts went to all of the families that I knew were lining the course. I was sad and angry because I know that their memories of Boston will forever be tarnished and they were robbed of the happiness that I had with my family in Boston. For those in the explosion zone it is even worse – they now have to carry the loss, trauma, and grief with them.

    There is a pureness that was defiled yesterday. It was an act of cowardice and evil. There isn’t a satisfying way to respond. But I do hope that you keep running, so that we can keep cheering. It isn’t heroic, but it does bring back some of the normalcy, some of the pureness, and some of the joy.

    1. Your comments are well stated and much appreciated. This is a community event, isn't it? I don't doubt Martin Richard was as excited about Dad's finish as his father was himself; if we deal with the loss of a runner from a heart attack during a race by saying "she was doing what she loved," we can perhaps cope with the loss of a child by recognizing that he was just as happy. Maybe. But I am thankful to hear that this is as much fun for you as it is for your brother (and for me, and for 23,000 others on the perfect day that was Monday, right up until 2:45 pm or so).

  3. I get both sides of this. I know my wife and daughter have fun when they cheer the Marathon. In NYC they have it down to a science. On the other hand, I always feel as if I'm imposing on them, and I'd feel completely responsible and devastated if anything happened to them . . . The "keep on running" meme is complicated. On the one hand, it is actually an assertion of rationality over irrational fear. It is also an assertion of control over the uncontrollable, and finally it is a collective response to a collective event.