By SARAH KRASNOSTEIN
Last Monday, I put my tired feet up and watched the 117th Boston Marathon until the wee hours. It had been in my diary for weeks, in case I forgot and made other plans for 2am on that Monday morning. I had my Boston Marathon app with bios of the elite participants. I made snacks.
I stalked #allinforboston on Instagram and Twitter to see what the mere mortal runners like myself were eating, wearing and feeling before their big race. I was more excited than anyone should appropriately be at 11:30 on a Sunday night.
The first time I watched a marathon, it was the Paris Marathon and I thought something was wrong with the broadcast. Why was the camera focusing solely on the runners at the front? Where were the Waddlers, like myself, slogging through each of those 42.2 kilometers like little engines that could? And why were the spectators so sparse, so blasé? As for the crowd, I’ve since learned that’s just Paris.
And as for rest of it – well, I also learned that in the big marathons, there are officially two different races: the elite race and the general race. But while the broadcast focuses on the former, those two races are really one. Everyone is competing only against themselves and everyone is doing it so beautifully that it will bring you to tears with pride for them and for what is possible for any of us when we believe.
But this Boston Marathon reminded us that there are other types of tears. When the bombs went off about three hours after the elites crossed the finish line, there were many runners still on the course and hundreds of spectators cheering them from the sidewalks. In a single footfall, the zenith of human potential was stomped down to its nadir. Or was it?
After years of training, those runners could see the finish line. And smoke. And blood. And limbs. And they ran into the crowd, checking for family, friends. They ran toward the injured. They tied tourniquets. They ran to donate blood. And when they did those things, one of the world’s greatest marathons became even greater.
The most frequent thing I read in my Twitter and Instagram-stalking of the ‘normal’ Boston marathon runners heading down to the start line was that they felt full of gratitude to be in that moment. That they felt so lucky to be supported by their families and friends. That they felt so alive.
Running – especially together, especially supported by crowds of cheering faces – is when we feel most gloriously, most vitally human. The energy created by people coming together for that purpose is sacred and it is sublime.
The bombing at Boston cannot change that. Darkness is not fought with darkness. It is fought by putting one foot in front of the other when everything else is telling you to stop.
The runners who were approaching the finish when the bombs went off, had run thousands of kilometers to reach that moment. They did so knowing that there would be times when all they would want to do was stop. And that when that time came, they would refuse.