Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston 2013

People run marathons for many reasons--to show their strength, to train with friends, to raise money for favorite causes, to remember someone who has died, or to prove they are healthy after fighting a terminal illness. Some even run marathons as their job since they are so good, sponsors pay them for their training and results.

I've completed the St. George Marathon twice--in 2001 a year after Lily was born, and again in 2005 a year after Micah was born.  I ran my first race on a whim--invited by a group of new friends, I decided to prove my mettle against the granddaddy of racing, and against myself.

Completing a marathon is almost as life-changing as experiencing childbirth, and I don't make that comparison lightly.  Hours and hours spent on the road running mile after mile, increasing your endurance each week, preparing for the big race.  3:30 am was the earliest we ever got up for a training run.  Really.  3:30 in the AM--training through the middle of summer in AZ is brutal, and temperatures can reach over 100 as soon as the sun comes up, so many runners try to finish their long runs in the dark coolness of the early early morning hours.

It was September, and I was nearing the end of my training for my first big race. We completed eight miles one morning, trying to get home early enough to get kids out the door to school.  I was so exhausted that morning that I climbed back into bed and immediately fell unconscious to the school preparations around me.  I even slept through the phone ringing.  When I awoke an hour later, I could tell something was strange, because we never have the TV on before the kids leave for school--and my family was gathered around the screen.  I rounded the corner to see what they were watching so intently on a school morning, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
I spent the entire day glued to the screen, wondering and questioning and crying.

That day the world changed forever.

Twenty-five days later, I found myself out on the marathon course, with the name Robert David Peraza centered on my race bib.  Robert David Peraza--a faceless name who had lost his life on 9/11/01.

I ran in his memory. I ran for someone who had loved him and lost him that day in September.  I ran past dozens of American flags waving in the breeze, past nameless faces who had come to support me through my race, past stereos blasting "God Bless the USA," past family in the bleachers cheering me from the bleachers at the finish line. Robert David Peraza and I crossed the finish line together.

Almost twelve years later, I found myself in my Suburban, headed out to complete a few errands before Evie's nap.  I turned on the radio and to my shock, the words "multiple bombs" and "deaths" and "Boston Marathon" jumbled together in my brain, refusing to be processed.

Just as I had done on 9/11/01, I found myself glued to to the news, watching and questioning and praying.

This time, it hit close to home.

As an amateur runner, I feel a kinship--a bond--with these crazy people who spend hours each week pounding the pavement and pushing themselves to the limit.  Lost toenails and packets of GU.  Bottles and bottles of water and gatorade.  Favorite socks and broken-in shoes. 

Hours and weeks and months of training.  For some, I'm sure, running the Boston Marathon was the completion of a lifelong dream--a dream I cannot even entertain because I could never get the qualifying time necessary to compete in the race.

The explosion occurred a little more than four hours into the race.  I completed my two marathons around 4:30.  If I had been on the course yesterday, I would have come upon the carnage just minutes after the bombs exploded.  My family would have been sitting in those bleachers, waiting with signs and smiles and watching for me. My eight-year-old son would have run out to give me a hug before running back to the sidewalk. I would have seen blood and limbs and bodies strewn across the course, surrounded by Samaritans and medics.

This hits so close to home because that could have been me.  It could have been St. George in 2001 or 2005 or Phoenix in 2013. It could have been me.

Street racing was forever changed yesterday--how it will change has yet to be determined.

I mourn today for those families who lost loved ones yesterday or who are currently standing sentinel at Boston area hospital beds.

But I refuse to let the insanity and cruelty of a few people change my life.  I will still run--run proud and run far and run competitively.  I will still cheer others from grandstands and along sidelines.  I will still pin those bibs to my chest and challenge my body and my mind by tackling road courses.

I will mourn for a short time, but I will continue to live my life the way I always have--if we change our mindset too much or let our fears escalate and overwhelm us, then THEY WIN.  And I refuse to let them win.

One of the aspects of marathon running that I love is that people never ask you if you won the marathon, since just finishing a marathon makes you a champion--a champion over your mind and your exhaustion.  I feel so sad for those who were robbed of that joy of "just finishing" yesterday because a few cruel people targeted their race.

Don't let THEM win.  Mourn for a day, maybe two, then return to living your joyful, purposeful lives the way you've always lived them.

For in that small action alone--just living day to day--we can demonstrate the resilience of our character and the strength of our commitment to freedom.

God bless you, Boston.


  1. So well put, Jen. Thank you. We can't let them win and when we become afraid, that's exactly what happens.

  2. Your thoughts echo many of those who have spoken since the marathon, especially the runners.As I told my husband, it puzzles me that I have to show my driver's license just to buy Sudafed, but anyone can go online and buy the ingredients to make a bomb without a glitch. Crazy world we live in, yeah? The best we can do is to continue to live our dreams and be loving. Love always wins.