May 6th, 2012, 10:30 AM. I didn’t think it was possible to simultaneously dry heave, smile, and cry, but it happened when I crossed the finish line of the 2012 Broad Street Run. In that moment, I had conquered 10 miles, considered myself a runner and never looked back. In the 11 months that followed, running became much more than my recreational sport of choice. It became my most adaptive coping skill. Pissed off? Sprints. Elated? Tempo run. Too much on my mind? The long slow distance run gave me time to get it together. The saying held true for me: running is cheaper than therapy, and there was nothing that couldn’t be solved with a solid run.
And then April 15th, 2013 happened.
Two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston marathon, killing three and injuring almost 200 others. For the spectators near and far, the runners represented strength, determination, perseverance and awe. What should have been a victorious moment of inspiration and accomplishment was marred by chaos, confusion, and horror.
Three people will never get their lives back. Neither will their families. Neither will the runners and spectators who lost limbs or the ones in critical condition. No amount of time or therapy will completely heal the wounds created by this massacre. In times of great tragedy, it’s natural to feel anger. Deep sadness. Loneliness and despair. And fear. Fear for the safety of the people we love. Fear of large-scale, public events. Fear of returning to our daily lives. It’s incredibly difficult to make sense of what happened and the flood of emotion accompanying the horrific event.
I’ve been asked if I’m scared to run Broad Street again this year. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. Only three weeks after the Boston marathon, the Broad Street Run is the largest 10 mile race in the nation and attracts elite athletes and couch to 10 milers alike. And don’t forget the crowds of fans cheering on the runners in North Philly, Center City, South Philly and by the stadiums. So yes, I’m scared. But right now, I’m enraged that someone would dare attempt to take the unparalleled joy out of something that inspires so many people.
But in the midst of the world’s atrocities, there’s an unbelievable beauty. The people who crossed the finish line and continued running to the hospital to give blood. The people who ran towards the blasts to make sure others weren’t hurt. The people that lent their phones to people to get in contact with their families. The people that gave their coats to the runners. The people that provided shelter for those that needed a place to stay. The thousands of people that immediately donated to the Red Cross. The people that opened their hearts.
This day might forever be known as a tragic day. But it also marks a day of resilience, hope and faith in humanity. So this morning, I ran. Tomorrow I’ll run too. And probably again the next day. And on May 5th, I’ll run those 10 miles on Broad Street. For my sanity and well-being. For coping and healing. For those that didn’t get to cross that finish line. For those who can’t run anymore. For the heroes that helped and made sure more lives weren’t unfairly taken. And for the goodness of the world. I’ll run.