We Are Runners, And We Will Run

by Jason Fitzgerald

This is the third time I’ve sat down to write about Monday’s Boston Marathon.

But yesterday – and the day before – I couldn’t articulate my feelings about what happened near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Like many of you, I went through every phase of loss: disbelief, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Hopefully today I’ll have more words.

The six days I spent in Boston for the marathon were mostly full of excitement and meetings with the most amazing people. I had coffee with one of my runners, shared a few drinks with a couple I used to coach, met other coaches, and held an SR meetup on Saturday night.

Dozens showed up and we laughed, talked running, and encouraged those who were racing on Monday. Never before had I met so many readers. It makes me excited for what I do every day but more importantly, even more passionate about the running community.

I left that meetup convinced that runners are one of the best groups of people to hang out with. I’ve never been more proud to call myself a runner.

Early on Marathon Monday, I went for my own short run before walking across the Massachusetts Ave bridge to watch the race. I was on Commonwealth Ave at about the 25.5 mile mark, just before the road dips under an overpass.

I cheered on two of my runners who I am so proud of for both running under 3:30 and setting new personal bests.

But the feeling of joy, a well-deserved pat on the back, and satisfaction was short-lived. Soon thereafter I traveled back to Cambridge across the river and had a drink with a few friends.

I had barely had a sip when my friend received a phone call from his Dad. There had been an explosion at the finish line of the marathon. The TV was turned on, full volume, and the restaurant filled with people wondering what happened. I soon realized that I was cheering at the very spot that runners were now being stopped and held.

My phone immediately went crazy with Facebook messages, wall posts, tweets, texts, phone calls, and emails. I am so grateful for the outpouring of concern from many of you, my family, and friends. Thankfully I was not near the finish area and both of my runners had finished and were unharmed.

But soon, even that feeling of safety was shattered. If you can’t be safe at a road race, where can you be safe? The marathon is a symbol of community, where runners come together to test themselves against 26.2 difficult miles.

There is no political agenda. There are no opposing teams to root for. There is no predominant culture, ethnicity, or religion.

The more I thought about this terrible tragedy, the more confused and angry I became. Bombs have no place at a marathon.

The day after the race I went running, trying to shake my head full of opposing thoughts, confusion, and what felt like cobwebs. And I saw other people out there running, too.

I ran back across the Massachusetts Ave bridge, along the Charles River, and through the streets of the Back Bay. And there were runners everywhere, many of them wearing their Boston Marathon shirts or jackets.

Then I realized that nothing can shake the spirit of the marathon. Nor will a few explosions turn people away from running road races.

We are runners, and we will run. 

The 2014 Boston Marathon – which I plan to run – will sell out even faster.

Runners who have never attempted 26.2 miles will now commit to train and complete the distance.

People who have never run at all will begin their slow journey to running their first marathon.

We are runners, and we will run.

Runners will never live in fear and cower away from the monumental achievement that is running a marathon.

The running community is strong and now we are even stronger. No senseless act will shake our determination and commitment to do what we love doing.

We are runners, and we will run.

To the victims of this horrible tragedy, I want to extend my deepest sympathy and condolences. Through SR I’ve become even more committed to the running community and these events feel like an attack on my closest friends. My thoughts are with you.

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