Numb

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Beauty amongst the chaos: photo taken of the Cambridge skyline from the Esplanade as I made my way home Monday night.

I saw a gentleman walking around this evening wearing an Avril Lavigne t-shirt. Normally that would be the worst thing I’d see on a given day but sadly that wasn’t the case today. The events of yesterday are weighing heavily on my mind and I can’t seem to clear my head. With my own eyes I saw Jason Ayr pull a Lazarus and rise from the ashes of a 103 degree fever to run a 2:27, but the magnitude of that accomplishment seems to escape me. I witnessed a nearly naked Eric Ashe (only some beads and a pair of running shorts keeping him from indecent exposure charges) jump out to run with his teammate Tim Ritchie, but I can’t seem to focus on the hilarity of the moment.

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Ashe helps out Ritchie just after Cleveland Circle (courtesy of Mary Kate Champagne).

For hours I sat there yesterday afternoon and watched the screen, over and over again the horror of the explosion played out before our eyes. It was eerily reminiscent of 9/11. I lost a couple of friends that day, and I’ll never forget that phone call that I received that evening. It was the memory of that very phone call that haunted me yesterday afternoon and kept part of me waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.

Since I became involved in Level Renner, my social network within the running community has expanded so much that I was on edge all day fearing that I’d receive some more bad news. As of now it looks like my family, friends and teammates are all okay and for that I feel truly blessed. At the same time my heart is heavy with sorrow for the losses of others.

Numb best describes my current state. Did I skip over rage, or could it be that I’ll get there once my overwhelmed mind processes it all? Unfortunately this act of terror seems to have trivialized the whole thing, at least at the moment.  But there is nothing trivial about a marathon. Even the best of preparations still may not be enough to get you through the entire 26.2 mile race. That’s a lot of road and your body may just decide ‘hey, it’s not my day’ at any point. We can’t overlook the fact that a lot of people accomplished some amazing things yesterday, some of which I saw personally, and at first I couldn’t help but feel that it’d be wrong to even talk about it.

I’ve run this race; I know what it takes and what it means. I know people who ran it yesterday, and I still haven’t brought myself to look up their times just yet. I spoke to Joe Navas on the phone for 16 minutes last night and didn’t ask him about his race once, although I sincerely care about how it went for him. I was stationed out near Cleveland Circle with some NBB, BAA and WMDP runners and got some good footage, and for a brief period I wondered if it would ever see the light of day.

The strength of the community quickly snapped me out of it. A simple post last night on Facebook and the responses that followed helped to bring me out of that funk. Runners are a close-knit community and something as heinous as this act was will only serve to further galvanize us:

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If the perpetrator(s) of this cowardly act thought that messing with a road race would deter us then they couldn’t be more wrong.  They obviously know nothing of the running community. It was as if they thought that they could strike at the heart of the race and stop us all. There is no singular heart of the race. Instead it is made up of the hundreds of thousands of hearts of those involved, be it runners past and present, volunteers and supporters of all kinds. We use races in a lot of cases to rally and overcome tragedy. The race will be back and be better than ever, with no shortage of people eager to run it. We are strong and our strength will come through over the days and weeks that will follow.

I pondered all of this and more, starting with my journey home. I was six miles away and wanted to be there with my wife. I felt bad that she had to walk home from work alone, but there wasn’t a way for me to get to her quickly. I finally decided to walk the distance. The T was up and running but if they were keeping people away from the area on the surface then riding under it didn’t seem too appealing. The thought of getting stuck on the train for a long time for whatever reason was bad enough to keep me from taking that ride. Traffic seemed bad enough to make taking a taxi a bad idea as well.

The questions kept coming to me: How? Why? Who? Without a point of reference, it’s harder to process. I don’t know how this would compare to something like the ’72 Munich or ’96 Atlanta Olympics, but that’s all I could think of in terms of athletic competition. The Boston Marathon might not be as big of a deal as the Olympics, or have the tradition of nations laying down their arms in the spirit of athletic competition, but it’s close. The event brings people from all nations, religions, and backgrounds together on the same course with the same mission.

It’s hard to not think about the ramifications of this. It makes me think that this could do to the major race experience what 9/11 did to the air travel experience. Along my walk, I came to an unexpected sight: a police blockade. There they were, at the Beacon St and Park Drive intersection, stopping all vehicle and foot traffic. It was a good mile and a half from the scene of the crime. That seems like a long way but when you think about the fact that it’s only a small fraction of the 26.2 mile marathon course then it’s not that big of an area. That’s also not even including all the acreage dedicated to pre- and post-race staging. How do you protect something that expansive?

That leads to even more questions to consider, such as how much more security will be needed? Is it possible to completely secure an area that big while still maintaining an open and free environment? As vulgar as it may be to consider finances right now, it makes me wonder if the extra security would create a spike in entry fees that would price a lot of people out of the race. All of these are questions to consider later.

For now, we need to focus on healing those that are hurt. We need to strike a balance, one that celebrates the triumphs of the day while showing the utmost respect for the tragic events that followed. Perhaps most importantly, we need to train for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

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This was originally published on the Level Renner website on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

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About ejnshow

Runner. Writer. Lover of the absurd. Hobbies include bringing all three of these elements together.

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