Boston’s tragedy, through the eyes of a race onlooker

AP Photo/Winslow Townson
AP Photo/Winslow Townson

I must confess, I hate running.

If it occurs in increments of more than 150 yards, it’s one of the most painful things in the world. My ankles begin to hurt, I lose my breath and I display other qualities of fatassness. But I run to stay relatively in shape — because I have to, not because I want to.

There are so many people out there that run because they love it, though. And when those people’s races are hindered by an outside force, big or small, I get mad.

It angers me because I know one of those people. My girlfriend has become a heck of a runner. She’s finishing in the top two or three of her age group in most races she does these days, and I become prouder of her with every race she finishes. While I work — to no level of success so far — to get in shape to run alongside her in these 5K or 10K races, I stand at the finish line for now, cheering her as she crosses the finish line, because it’s the best way I know to support her.

That’s what thousands of people were doing in Boston on Monday afternoon when two bombs went off: standing there, watching the race, waiting for their loved one to cross so they could give him or her a big hug and tell them how great they did.

At this writing, we know the identities of two of the three people killed by the blasts. Neither of them were running in the race. Both were bystanders, waiting for someone they knew to cross the 26.2-mile mark. One of them was waiting for his dad; the other, for her boyfriend. With the frightening and sad moment in the back of my mind, when my girlfriend runs the Peachtree Road Race on July 4, I’ll be right there, standing at the finish line, waiting for her to finish.

And I won’t be afraid.

There’s no way we can be afraid, though I might make it a point to be vigilant. I might avoid trash cans, but I won’t avoid the race altogether. And today, I went on a mile-and-a-half run to clear my mind and honor the folks who were changed forever by the events on Monday.

While none of those killed were runners, you can be assured that some of the amputees were. I know several runners, both friends and work colleagues, and I’ll tell you this — running isn’t just a way to stay in shape for them. It’s a way to get over a break-up or a bad day at work. It’s a way to escape from everything swirling around them.

Some runners probably lost their ability to walk, much less run, on Monday. They’ll have to find another way to escape, and for that, I’m sad. I’m also sad because, as a whole, runners are one of the most astute, supportive groups of people I’ve ever seen. They can be a little corny when it’s race-time, sure, but they’re all so strong in mind and willing to help another runner at any time, no matter the cost.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see so many of them helping on Monday, even though they might have known they were running in to aid people who had war-like injuries. Using a race lanyard to keep someone from bleeding to death is a lot different than carrying someone with a sprained ankle 50 feet across the finish line, but you wouldn’t have noticed a difference when you watched footage from Boston.

It’s why I’m proud to have a girlfriend that runs, and it’s the reason why I’ll stand at any finish line, waiting for her, even after the events that unfolded in Boston.

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