I had only worked at the Idaho State Journal a few months when I was assigned to cover the Pocatello Marathon, sponsored by the newspaper. Although the entire sports team was pitching in on coverage, I took the lead, including the main event.
I positioned myself at the finish so I could catch the winner. In a bright yellow jersey, he can smiling across. I just happened to be standing next to his wife and daughter and, when I asked them how they felt to see their loved one win the race, they both burst into tears. More runners came through, exhausted and animated, and I watched the emotion on their faces with great intent. My eyes welled up and goose bumps covered my skin. I had never experienced the beauty of the human spirit under sport up close before.
A few weeks ago, I crossed my own finish. It was truly a highlight in my life. The crowds. The emotions. The sense of victory.
A marathon finish line is an extraordinary place. It brings out the deepest of guts and courage. It’s where dreams are achieved and shattered. Strangers cheering on strangers. People defeating limits and encouraging each other — there isn’t much in the universe better than that.
A marathon finish line shouldn’t be covered in blood. It shouldn’t force people to call loved ones to tell them they are OK. It shouldn’t cause people to fear for their lives.
After a very rollercoaster day, I thought about calling it quits with a movie, but decided a run would do me good. It was Boston Marathon Day after all.
There are two sporting events I’ve long dreamed about competing in: the Olympics and the Boston Marathon. Although it is highly likely I will never participate in either, the visions of such motivated me during the long lonely miles of training. I pictured hitting the finish in a time good enough for Boston, and then running the famed race while my family cheered me on.
Last night, as I was crawling into bed, I decided to check Twitter, although I had been off of it all day, for Boston updates. I saw a word I had to read twice because at first I didn’t understand – explosion.
For hours, I continued to refresh Facebook, Twitter and news sites on my phone for any updates I could get. The BBC reported what little information was available and I sobbed when it was confirmed that two (the number went up while I was asleep) were dead.
Much of the time, I walk around with an immunity complex. National news doesn’t scare me. During the events of September 11, 2011, I sat in my high school chemistry class believing I was watching a movie. When reality rang through the weeks after, it was still an event that happened to other people in other places.
Yet, the bombings at the Boston Marathon terrified me, even thousands of miles from the incident. The next morning, as I caught up on developments, things seemed different. It was as if there would be two separations, life before and life after.
Maybe it was because bombings and shootings are now becoming a common occurrence in the United States. Maybe it is because innocent places like marathons are no longer immune to these awful incidents, shattering our sense of security anywhere. We don’t know what caused this, terrorist or not, these things should not happen in places of joy.
In Africa, I can’t watch the continuing coverage on 24-hour news channels or videos of the explosions, and it is probably best that way. All I know is that three people died, and many more injured, at an event that is supposed to be the celebration of the human character, not the destroying of it.
It’s a sad world we live in when blood and tears disgrace history-rich events that bring people from around the world, and boozing college kids, to honor sport. But when these events do happen we must rise up and continue. We honor the lives lost and show we are stronger than this. The running community, the United States of America and the human spirit are stronger.