Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Goodness of Us

The world watched a week ago aghast as two bombs erupted at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The madness of the ensuing week were difficult to grasp as reality. It almost seemed like a movie to me. The people of Boston endured and now a mere week later, one suspect is dead and the other is in custody. Race running has been changed forever.

It is easy to focus on the horror during events like these. We tend to focus on these terrible people and what could drive them to inflict such pain on innocent people. Especially against a running event. This event was very personal to me, and in many ways, I feel like I’m going through this for the first time when the rest of the nation was able to go through it after September 11th, 2001. That was a different event for me, since I was still on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. My mind was in a different place back then, and I don’t think I experienced the full weight of the tragedy like most everyone else did.

In my previous post, not even 24-hours after the Boston attack, I think I was feeling much like I did when I was in the military. Anger, vengeance, defiance. I still feel those feelings, but they have been sidelined by a sense of hope and community. On Sunday, April 21st, 2013, I participated in the annual Valley Forge Revolutionary 5-mile Run. Less than a week after the tragedy, many of us went out to run in a place sacred to the Freedom of this country to show solidarity. It was stated during the opening remarks of that race, that our fraternity of runners was attacked. This was against us all. And so we ran. While the weather was a little on the cold side for a Pennsylvania April day, it was beautiful. And you can’t ask for a better venue than Valley Forge National Park. I’m guessing it was 3-parts hard training and 1-part inspiration for the day, but I got another personal record for this 5-mile race. My RunKeeper stats:

Valley Forge Revolutionary Run 2013

And then just one day later, on Monday, April 22nd, 2013, I had the privilege to participate in a local fundraiser run where all of the proceeds were donated to the Boston One Fund. I wasn’t sure what to expect for an event like this in Reading, PA. I was very pleasantly surprised. Over 800 runners showed up to donate to the fund and show our community we are not afraid. Among those 800 were 12 who had run in the Boston Marathon. It was moving to me that they were present, as probably the 12 among us most affected by this event. And yet, here they were, proudly wearing their marathon gear and running with us. The local news media was out as well. Channel 69 News aired a small segment about the run (the last 3 minutes of the video on this page). Our local newspaper, The Reading Eagle was also there, and also published a short article and 10 photos of the event. Another inspiring event, and it shows in my times:

Run For Boston 2013

 

I started to run in June of 2012 because I needed a new way to achieve my personal fitness goals. I’d tried diets, gym memberships, all kinds or gear and tech, but nothing was getting me where I wanted to be. I remembered struggling with running while I was in the military, but never really gave it a second thought after I separated. I never anticipated the community aspect of running, and today I sit here in awe. I have said before that runners are some of the best people I know. They are competitive and tough, sure. But they are also encouraging, supportive, and welcoming. The outpouring of the goodness of us leaves me humbled. It reminds me of an excellent posting I saw on Facebook right after Boston. I can’t sum up how I feel any better than comedian Patton Oswalt did:

“Boston. Freaking horrible.

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.”

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” – Patton Oswalt

My Thoughts on Boston

Like most of the world, I’m still reeling from what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday afternoon. The various news networks are all on-site showing every detail of the sheer horror that this cowardly act has wrought. I sat watching the news last night, debating if I should write this yet, or wait a while to sort out my thoughts a bit more. I decided to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning to the news pouring in. Instead of sitting and staring at the news, I put on my gear and went for a run. It’s really when I do my best thinking. That act alone decided for me that I needed to get fingers to keyboard right away. There are a few things that need to be said that aren’t being said yet in the major media.

While I have no idea who did this, or what their motive was, I can tell you that if whoever did this was trying to scare runners, they were sorely mistaken. Distance runners are not just physically tough, but mentally tough. Really, really tough. Short distance running is all physical. Long-distance running is all mental. These marathoners know how to pace their bodies and keep on running when that little voice inside their head starts screaming for them to stop. Twenty-six miles is no joke. Think about it. Most people I know think driving in their car somewhere that is 26 miles away is “too far”. Marathoners RUN that. Without stopping.

Another thing not being discussed is how runners are a community. A strong community. Most people who don’t run distance races might not know this, but runners are extremely positive and encouraging to other runners. This was something I didn’t realize until one of my first “long” races, where complete strangers were giving me high-fives and words of encouragement as I completed my run. I found myself starting to do the same. The pattern perpetuates itself in a very affirming and positive way. You can’t shake community like that with anything.

To me, running is a celebration of life and health. I’m 40 years old, my hair is turning gray, but hey, I’m out there and I can still run. Nothing is going to turn me away from that. I’m pretty sure that most of the runners in Boston feel the same way. So whoever did this, you lost before you even started. Nothing you did is going to stop runners from running, or stop the Boston Marathon (or any other big run around the country) from happening in the future. We are runners, and we’re tougher than you. We are runners, and have faced down injury, fatigue, and long miles. You don’t frighten us. Not even a bit. Now that you decided to mess with our pinnacle event, this community is going to do everything it its tough power to bring the full weight of justice to bear on you. I hope you can run fast and long, because you’ll have to if you think you’re going to outrun us. We’re going to catch you.