Monday, April 22, 2013

The World We Live In

Yesterday I ran the Rutgers Unite Half Marathon. As I waited at the starting line, I thought, "how perfect that the race sponsor is Unite". The 4000 runners lined up that day were doing more than just exercising, besting their PR's, crossing off bucket list items, and running a race - we were uniting as one group in support of Boston, of runners everywhere, and of good overriding evil.

On April 15th, two terrorists made bombs from pressure cookers and strategically placed them at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Held on Patriots Day, the event attracts up to 500,000 people and has grown from 18 participants in 1897 to over 38,0000 - making it the world's largest marathon. This year, 2013, just before 3:00 pm in downtown Copley Square came the first explosion, shortly followed by the second. Like something out of a movie, the incident resulted in over 100 casualties - many of which lost limbs, suffered injuries from shrapnel, and required immediate medical attention. Streets reserved exclusively for the runners were suddenly filled with emergency workers, good samaritans, and scared civilians. Simultaneously we saw humanity at its worst and at its best - fortunately the heroes outnumbered the evil doers by far.

Wearing Mommy's medal
The visual images, albeit graphic, showed people flocking towards the injured and regular Joe's and Jane's turned into first responders, triage nurses, and new friends. The public outcry was immediate and through cell photo photos, Tweets, social media, and news coverage action was taken immediately to narrow down the suspects. It seemed that by days end, two suspects were weeded out, splattered all over the internet, and the chase was on.

So back at the starting line, I began to think - "what kind of world have a brought my little man into?". You go to the movies, there is a shooting. You go to school, you are at risk. You run a race, you could lose a limb. Where does it end? Well, I may not have an answer to that but I do know, as I looked at the racers wearing tee shirts, badges, ribbons, and hats in support of Boston, I realized that there is too much good out there to prevent little champions like Austin from entering the world. As we ran, as I ran, I felt a little extra something for those that may not be able to run anymore. The proximity of the race dates, the fact that Rutgers was not canceled in light of the recent events, told the world that you may kick us, but you can't bring us down. We may be sad, we may have been scared, but now we are united and we will out number you - always.

On I ran, passing (or sometimes being passed by) my peers thinking about Boston, the runners and the spectators in particular. Running is different than a lot of sports because 99% of us know  we aren't going to win this race, we aren't the elite, and we aren't professionals. We recognize running is a solitary sport but it is also a team sport. Early finishers double back and cheer us, mortals, on. Telling us the finish line is around the corner or that this is, in fact, the last hill. People we have never seen before cheer us on - holding up signs saying "Your feet hurt because you are kicking ass" or "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon". Runners, those you are "competing" against, give you a reassuring nod or an extra smile when its clear you are running out of steam and, for whatever reason, that propels you to forward. Girl Scours, Frat Boys, Soccer Moms, and Supportive Dads in their "I'm Here to Help" tees to pass out water and Gu on the sidelines despite the temperature, the early hours, or their outside responsibilities. For a solitary sport, we are one helluva team.

When I crossed the finish line, shocked I had gotten a PR, and found my friends I was anxious to get home to my family. I had that overwhelming feeling of wholeness and goodness that I wanted to share and use right away. Yes, there were two little bastards out there that sought to injure many and take the lives of three. To you both I say - screw you! As long as people, communities, runners, what have you come together and keep moving forward and sharing positive moments, you will not win.