Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Time The Hell Out

A few nights ago, I uploaded a bunch of photos from our trip to Santa Fe that I fully intended to post tonight. But then, I started thinking, and I thought - you know, why the hell not, I'm going to go ahead and blog about Boston. 

As a runner who has completed three half marathons and dozens of shorter-distance races, the whole thing is unthinkable to me. I have run races in Baltimore and Washington DC with 10, 20, 30,000 participants, and I understand something of the sheer logistics of roping off city streets, setting up medical tents, making sure that portable toilets/food/water are placed safely along the routes, and prepping hundreds of volunteers. Everyone is prepared for things like dehydration, sprained ankles, torn ligaments, falls, heat stroke, exhaustion, and rando pirates who try to ghost-run races without a number. Everyone is prepared for crowd control because, lemme tell you, marathons draw crowds. If every runner has only one person there, cheering him/her on, that's still 10, 20, 30,000 people that are just standing off to the side, watching. And that's a conservative estimate. Oh, and also, this is taking place in a very centralized and urban part of a major metropolitan city. This, too, requires some serious planning.

Further upping the important anxiety of a big race is the fact that you have 10, 20, 30,000 people who have been working for months (perhaps years, in some instances) for this day. They are nervous as hell, double-knotting the laces of their sneakers and tightening their waist packs with mini-bottles of water and packets of sports gel. They are wearing their lucky shorts/shirts/socks/hats, and flexing tense muscles all the way up to the starting line. They've carbo-loaded the night before, drank just-enough-but-not-too-much water, tucked their IDs and cell phones safely about their person so that, when they finish, they can Tweet and Facebook and Instagram their triumph. These runners are dedicated, they're running for personal achievement or in memory of someone they love or as a dare or for the sheer hell of saying you've qualified for and run the Boston marathon. These are people for whom the slightest uneven pavement can wreak havoc, for whom a "bad day" can feel like utter defeat after months and months of early mornings, sore muscles, and lost toenails. These are people who have worked so f*ing hard.

And the people that come to cheer them on - perhaps they are runners as well, who didn't or couldn't or wouldn't qualify for the marathon. Perhaps they are family members, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, best friends, bosses, Book Club members who just came to watch So-And-So run the m*ther f*ing Boston Marathon. They're there, they're cheering, and they are genuinely excited. It's rare that you have the opportunity to watch someone's triumph live and in person. It's like sitting and watching the Arrivals Gate at the airport. All is forgiven, everyone is just so damn happy to see one another after a long journey.

The luckiest fans and supporters - the ones who get there super early, and brought coffee to warm their hands and innards, granola bars, cameras with extra batteries, waters and who cheer when the initial gun goes off and settle in for that 3-4 hour wait - are the ones who cluster at the Finish Line. Everyone wants to see the first Kenyan person cross the finish line because they're watching human history in the making. And, unlike most sporting events, this sh*t is free. All you have to do is show up. Super early. 

So you take this giant equation - the logistics, the safety measures, a historic and beautiful metropolis, the anxiety of high-strung runners, the excitement of the crowd - and it all adds up into a giant, beautiful, crazy hullaballoo that gets televised and warrants Today show interviews. This thing is big, it's exciting, and damn if it isn't a major triumph of human spirit.

Oh, and also, don't forget that the last mile of the Boston marathon was dedicated to those who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school. Not only are you crossing a finish line, you're doing so on hallowed ground. 

So, everyone is cheering, everyone is excited, everyone is tired and possibly a little bit cold and (if you're running) it's probable that you're suffering from some sort of gastro-intestinal distress and/or severe exhaustion. But it's good distress, and well-earned exhaustion. The runners see the finish line, and they get that final last burst of energy, that one that propels one towards things like Gatorade, bananas, and a silvery papery jacket that you can wrap around your tired shoulders. The faces light up, the exhausted get their swagger back a little bit. Everyone runs a little faster down that last ten or so yards towards the Finish Line. The crowd is encouraging - YOU HAVE COME SO FAR, JUST A LITTLE BIT FURTHER, AND THEN YOU'VE DONE IT; YOU'VE RUN THE BOSTON F*ING MARATHON.

Now, tell me. Tell me who. In the hell. Would put bombs at the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon. 

You can't tell me. Because, if you're like me, you can't even fathom it. It's difficult enough to think about random acts of violence that involve guns and children, or airplanes and landmark buildings. It's difficult to imagine countries where car bombs go off as regularly as chiming clocks. It's difficult to wrap your head around acid attacks, pipe bombs, disgruntled teenagers taking an entire school hostage. All of that is horrific and there's no rhyme or reason for it. 

You take a huge event like the Boston marathon, you trim it with all of this excitement and anxiety, and then someone comes along and blows the whole thing up. Because even though the bomb "only" killed 3 people and "only" injured less than 200 people, every single runner in that race was heartbroken, every single on-looker was shocked and terrified, and an entire nation stopped to watch with shock and sadness. That whole thing went to hell in a handbasket in the span of 20 seconds.

I feel multiple things simultaneously: rage, fear, anxiety, sadness, guilt, and hope.


Fear - because, as the paranoia in this country reaches new heights, you start hearing that "you just never know" mantra. I hate that mantra. It forces terrible laws into passage, it solidifies stereotypes, it isolates us from each other, and it perpetuates displaced hatred.

Anxiety - because incidents like these put everyone on high alert, and honestly, I'm more fearful of what angry, afraid populations do than I am of some crazy asshole copycat.

Sadness - It's consuming. It's huge. It's overwhelming. It makes me want to lie down in my bed and never come out.

Guilt - because this shizz happens every single day in other parts of the world. In the US, we feel that we are safe and immune from random violence to a certain extent. This isn't Pakistan or Yemen. This is the US of A, we take our shoes off to get on planes and go through metal detectors to enter elementary schools forchrissake. We aren't used to this level of shock, and when it happens, we feel such a toxic cocktail of the four aforementioned emotions that we're forced to think...Wow...some people feel like this everyday

And finally - hope. Hope, because I see so many people signing up for marathons, so many people wearing Boston T-shirts and hats, so many people urging the public to see the good, the redemption. Hope because runners will always run, and because we have a President who diplomatically refused to use the word "terrrorism" when referring to the incidents until proven otherwise. Hope because everyone is all up into these triumphs of human spirit stories, hope because we have a new crop of "my cousin's sister-in-law's daughter's third grade teacher was four blocks away from the blasts, but she's ok" stories to tell. 

This Saturday, I'm running a 10k here in Baltimore. And you bet your ass I'm going to toss up a RunForBoston hashtag. I might even write it on my bib. 

And you know what else? All this makes me want to do is run a marathon.


Tiffany said...

Love this, it says exactly what I've been thinking these past few days.

Also, maybe I'll see you at the finish line this weekend, I'm also running Sole of the City!

The New Glitterati said...

Thanks, Tiffany! I'll definitely be there. I'm pretty psyched about that Under Armour jacket premium....