Almost a year ago, as Nick walked me to the start line of the 500 Festival Mini Marathon, I was on edge. I was anxious beyond the usual pre-race jitters. Just a couple weeks earlier, two bombs had gone off at the finish line in Boston. As the 500 Festival Mini is the nation’s largest half marathon, with about 35,000 participants, it was pretty rational to worry that someone might try to copy cat the attack from Boston in Indy. Security was stepped up, and gear check would only accept the official bags given out to racers at registration.
Despite the nerves of the crowd on the start line, there was also an air of pride. Boston is the “big kahuna” of American road races, maybe of all road races. There aren’t many runners who haven’t pictured themselves somewhere between Hopkinton and Boston, whether racing or cheering, on Patriot’s Day. To have the reality of that dream violently torn away from so many didn’t just make us angry, but it made us determined. I saw so many t-shirts with “I run for Boston” and “Boston strong” written on them. That day, I think we all ran, walked or cheered our hearts out. We did it for those who couldn’t anymore. We did it to show other evildoers that you can’t attack our country, or our sport, without consequences, without bringing us closer together and making us stronger.
The bombing in Boston hurt me personally for a couple reasons. First, because I am one of those runners who has dreamed of being in Boston for the marathon, though on the sidelines. Second, while at Butler I wrote “She’s Got Legs, She Knows How to Use Them”
The Impact of Female Marathon Runners on Issues of Discrimination in Mid-20th Century America, a research project about the examples Bobbi Gibb and Kathrine Switzer became to other women by racing at Boston when women weren’t allowed to compete. I feel like I owe my opportunity to race half marathons to them, and to Boston.
I remember tweeting the morning of last year’s race, “I’d rather be in Boston.” Later that day, after I’d heard what had happened, I felt spooked. I still feel somewhat spooked thinking what it would have been like had I actually been there.
A year later, the whole country is remembering the attack on Boston. There was another scare the day of the memorial events this past week, which is a shame. Yet, I know those running and watching this year’s race see it as a chance to continue healing, to set things right.
This weekend, I’ll be watching the Derby Festival Marathon (which just so happens to be a Boston qualifier event) a few miles from the finish line as it winds through my neighborhood. I’ll cheer for all the participants, grateful to be part of a strong, determined, global running community and its supporters. I’ll be praying for the safety of my city. If I see any of the LMPD officers along the route, I’ll thank them.
Then, I’ll probably lace up my own shoes and go for a run.