The Frustration of the “I”

I’m starting to find the words to express my frustration that escaped me a few days ago when I first tried to write about my feelings about the Boston Marathon.

Although I am a relatively recent transplant to this town, it has felt like home to me for years. First as a highlight of intellectual excellence (learned that from Good Will Hunting, which I saw shortly before my first trip to Boston), to a mysterious nearby city in college, to a near second home when I organized numerous trips here in the summer of 2010 for work. To see places that I pass often erupt in clouds of smoke and fear has shaken me deeply, and I will have a hard time being in that area in the coming months.

But my biggest source of pain and frustration came to me as I walked to the train this morning, passing where the mile 22 marker stood only a few short days ago. I was able to liken my own running experience to that of the runners I saw as the race was being shut down.

When asked what races I’ve done, I always say “I’ve run in seven half marathons, but have completed six.” And that’s true. A knee injury in mile 11 forced me off the course of the Women’s Running Half Marathon in November 2011. There was a lot of anger surrounding my injury, but there was a greater tinge of pain to my pride that came from not being able to finish the race. As I passed mile 22, I did some quick math and realized the runners that I had seen stopped and informed that the race was being stopped, were being stopped at (proportionately) the same point at which I had been derailed. I would NEVER liken the experience of an injured knee to the terror that comes with an attack on a race. But when a runner can’t finish what he or she has set out to start, there’s a very distinct feeling that comes about.

When you are that close to the end of a race, you’ve started to lose feeling and the motions pulling you through are becoming automatic. You start to feel weightless, and as close to flying as the human body could feel. When you can’t finish that race, for whatever reason, it feels as though you’re being ripped from the sky. I am shaken for my city, and incredibly sad for the lives lost and forever changed by the horrible events of Monday afternoon. But the part of me that is angry, is angry for all of those from whom the right to finish was taken. The Marathon, any marathon is a triumph of the body and spirit and should be the pinnacle of one’s life. It is an incredible and life-changing experience. The sanctity of that experience was stolen from thousands of runners, as was the sense of safety of countless others here.

This weekend, a few races are being organized to allow those in the area able to run, to finish the race that they started. I hope to participate in the one that starts just past Heartbreak Hill, right by the mile marker where I spent most of my time spectating. Those runners earned the right to finish. I am so excited that someone is affording these runners (and those who wish to run in honor of those who can’t be there) that chance, and look forward to the pride and happiness that will come from erasing that “I”, and all the fear and anger that may accompany it, from their record.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the #runforboston project started by Becca Obergefell, which has collected the stories of over 2000 runners hitting the pavement or treadmill worldwide in honor of those affected by Monday’s events.
Log your miles and stories here!

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