It’s raining outside. Pouring actually. The wind is ferocious. Rattling my windows and whistling through my chimney. My dog is looking for a place to sleep but the wind keeps rousing her. Scaring her out of her slumber. Leaving her restless; pacing back and forth while looking out the windows. Circling around and around. Trying to lie down but never quite getting peace enough to settle in.
I’m procrastinating. Putting off my long run. Waiting for the storm to pass. Hoping the downpour subsides so I can avoid the treadmill. I hate the treadmill. Instead, I wait. Circling around and around in my mind, restless. Looking for a place to settle my thoughts.
I’m wishing I was in Boston today. Cheering on the Boston Marathon runners. Seeing friends and strangers participate in this historic race. Being with my friends and teammates; soaking up the glow of camaraderie and joy. I’m pining for all of it.
My favorite race.
Some of my best memories are of watching the Boston Marathon with my dad as a child. Memories of seeing Team Hoyt run and seeing Joan Benoit Samuelson win. I always cried whenever the women flew past towards the finish line. I still do.
When I was a child, the runners symbolized for me that anything is possible. As long as you’re willing to roll your sleeves up and stare fear in the face. Not only Joan or Rick and Dick Hoyt, but all runners embodied daring greatly, believing in yourself and putting it all on the line — even if that meant failing.
Risking is everything. At least I think so.
As a child, I watched the runners and it was transcendent. I saw strength and courage and hope. Hope and possibility. I believe that seeing all of these people striving for something — pushing through pain — made it possible for me to get though my day-to-day struggle of being sexually abused as a child. Thousands of people running past — showing me in their exertion that there is a big world of endless possibilities out there. Witnessing their resiliency kept me from being swallowed up by my own sorrow. Seeing the runners helped me stay in my own race. A participant in my own life.
The runners imparted a knowing in me. A truth that in my silent sorrow I would be okay. I just would be.
We do that for each other. We give each other strength and hope and courage. We also pull each other out of our own minds and into each others’ hearts when we are in a community together.
Each runner runs their own personal race but there is profound symbolism in witnessing so many people running side by side. I will never forget the magnitude of that experience. Of truly seeing this. I think what I pulled from that was this: I am not alone. I may be on my own path, but I am not alone.
This fact was further emphasized by the deafening cheers from the never-ending swarms of supporters yelling out encouragement along the entire course. People stepped out of their daily lives to witness this event and cheer each other on. I had never seen anything like it. Ever.
Today, each time I race, I cry. I am overcome by the powerful energy I feel being among so many individuals — pushing ourselves in our own personal races. Our own separate lives. Together.
When I was little, I watched the runners and I knew that there was so much more to life than my pain and suffering. The runners gave me hope and courage and strength. The spectators did too.
I am eternally grateful for that gift. For hope. For the runners who showed me and for my dad who always told me: I could do anything. And for the folks along the way who always cheer for me. No matter what.
I’m also deeply reflective about the fact that this day holds so much more than it did in the past.
This morning I told my daughter that it was “Marathon Monday,” as we always called it. She said, “Wow that must be really scary for them. Running after the bombings.” I was pulled from my own reverie and was somehow struck by the fact that when I was her age this race represented strength and courage and hope. Today it carries with it the reality of trauma and destruction and harm.
We talked about that a bit. My daughter and I. About how her memories of the Boston Marathon are of images from news broadcasts and stories about bombings and loss. About sadness and horror. About pain and suffering. I told her that for me the race was always about conquering our inner fear and that it made me profoundly sad that now there was a true, external fear tied to the history of the Boston Marathon.
She said she didn’t know if she would want to run it. Being afraid of being hurt. I stood, literally leaning over my counter, feeling the weight of what she was saying. The truth to it. My throat tightened and I had to whisper when I spoke. Realizing that while everything has changed since the bombings, in some ways, for me, nothing has.
I hold on to my belief that people are resilient. People are open to possibilities. The history of the Boston Marathon has changed. But it also holds with it the message of triumph. “Boston Strong.”
I’m still that young child sitting on the corner of Beacon Street and Hereford Street. Watching the final push to the finish. Holding my breath. Tears pouring down my cheeks. Watching the runners. Cheering for them. Witnessing strength, courage, risk and accomplishment. All of these magnificent people living their lives, running their journey with fear nipping at their heals. Still moving one step at a time, not knowing what the finish will hold but dedicating themselves to its pursuit nonetheless. This is real life. This is living.
“I would always choose to run it,” I choked. She hugged me and smiled. “That’s my mom,” she sang as she threw on her backpack and skipped out the door into the rain. “That’s my girl,” I thought. Flooded with such wonderment.
Race well runners. May the wind be at your back. May you embrace each step of your journey today. May you always be brave and strong. Thank you for running. I’m cheering for you!