This morning was a beautiful morning. A perfect morning for a run. So it was no surprise that I drove past several runners during my commute into work. I love to watch runners; they look so focused, so free. I wish I’d gone ahead and packed my running clothes, even knowing that my day is too busy for even a short run. I’m sure I could squeeze it in somehow.
I’ve been a runner since high school, or even before that; running has always been something I’ve loved to do. Aside from my own family, being a runner among runners (and the people who love them) has been the only place where I’ve always felt completely accepted, regardless of skill, gender, shape, or size. Everyone is happy to have you among them. Everyone wants you to succeed.
I’ve known fast runners, slow runners, competitive runners, and fun runners, and the truth is the only word that really matters is “runner.” Every run, every race is an individual journey that you make with dozens, hundreds, thousands of supporters — strangers, but comrades — cheering you on, rooting for you every step of the way. Each victory is an important victory. Every failure can be overcome. I can think of nothing else in life that compares. It’s been a constant joy in my life, a source of strength and a source of peace, and I’ve looked forward to sharing it with my daughter.
So this? This? It hurts, deep, deep inside. I think, unless you’re a runner or close with a runner, it can be hard to understand, but Roger Robinson expressed it perfectly: “I feel as if my own family has been violated.”
I watched those runners this morning, and couldn’t help wondering if they were thinking what I was thinking. Because I’m thinking about all those races we’ve done and plan to do, never once imagining that something much darker than cold water and bananas might be waiting at the finish line. Never once imagining that it could be a violent act — and not some freak injury — that might keep us from getting to the end. Never once imagining that the friends and families waiting out in the elements to cheer us through could be in mortal danger. I don’t want to let fear get the better of me, but a bombing at a marathon? It changes things. Our peaceful, happy, healthy community — our family — brutally injured. What else can you say? What else can you do? I want to shout. I want to cry. I want to lash out.
But more than that? I want to run. I need to run.
Because when you’re a runner, and the journey gets tough, you push on. You push hard. When it seems impossible, you turn deep inside and you summon up even the tiniest mote of will to keep going. And when you can’t find it within you, you listen to the cheers of spectators and volunteers who will it for you. You carry on. You run because the road is yours. You run because you cannot be stopped.