One of my best memories is crossing the finish line in the 2005 Boston Marathon. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and my parents had flown out to Boston from Colorado for the event. Although initially concerned about my well-being at the thought of running 26.2 miles, their smiles showed me how proud and excited they were to be there. I saw how much they enjoyed taking the Tufts family shuttle to different points on the course, catching us in the beginning and in the final stretch to the end. I can’t explain the emotion of turning the corner on mile 26, while in the heart of downtown, and finding your parents screaming your name among the crowd. I didn’t know at that time that a month later I would lose my father, and the joyful memories of that day would become seared in my brain as one of my last with him.
Yet, the day has persisted as “the best day of my life,” as I have encouraged friends to run the marathon, which proves to be a feat of mental and physical strength for anyone – even my most athletically inclined friends. The months of training for the marathon opened up the opportunity to explore Boston on long runs in the freezing February temperatures and understand friends in new ways as we struggled to finish runs. On a particularly difficult training run, a friend’s eye froze shut on a bridge crossing into Boston from Harvard. Yet, my only memory is our desire to finish the run, even if he could only see out of one eye. I have no doubt this is how runners felt yesterday.
Yesterday, throws this joyful day of celebration in this beloved city into a whole new category. For many running is in itself a community activity, especially within the Tufts community. Main people train with friends, run the marathon with friends, or cheer friends on. The Boston Marathon in particular is a community activity. The entire city buzzes with excitement on Marathon Monday, as everyone knows someone who is running and takes the day to celebrate the achievement. The reaction and response to Monday’s tragedy are also community oriented.
This is one of those times, to hold your friends and family close, pray, sit quietly and send thoughts to those directly affected by the blasts. There is no right way to respond to a tragedy, so close to home. Yet, be gentle with yourself and those around you. Remind yourself that shock may dislodge other feelings of grief and healing, bringing them to the surface. It is okay to miss people and it is okay to want to hold people closer this week. Do what you need to do.
This morning I put on my Red Sox shirt and running shoes, retraced my favorite marathon training run, enjoying the spring weather and this beautiful city that is home, at least for now.