You see from my blog title what this entry is about. I have to be honest, I have hummed and hae'd about whether to blog about the events at today's Boston Marathon, which was held in honour of the 26 victims of the Newtown tragedy. Would writing a blog post be playing into the hands of the sick individual(s) who decided to set off bombs near the finish line of today's race, costing three lives and countless of other injuries (some of them meaning those injured may not have the use of both legs ever again)? Would posting something about the horrific events that played into today's tragedy be sensationalizing this event?
But tonight, my parents and brother called me to see how I was taking the news, because of my connection to marathon running, as well as my connection to some of the runners in today's race. It seemed they were expecting me to have a personal connection to the event, simply because I have run marathons.
But let's face it: today's tragedy cuts us all to the core, runner or not. This was an event that unfairly targeted thousands of innocent athletes, families, volunteers and organizers - the several thousand people gathered to celebrate healthy lifestyles and the work and effort of thousands of individuals over several months, let alone their efforts on the actual day. It was an event that celebrated life, no matter our political affiliations or country of origin.
And yet, I also had a personal connection to the event, as did so many of us watching them unfold from the comfort of our laptops and televisions.
Last Wednesday, I headed to the Fireside Lounge with a dozen or so fellow runners to celebrate the achievements of two fellow Halifax runners headed to Boston. We handed them greeting cards and bags full of Canada paraphenalia (including thunder sticks and huge Canada ties for their husbands). No matter what their time crossing the finish, all of us there knew that simply making it to Boston is an incredible feat of months' worth of determination and effort, when running becomes your every waking (and sometimes, dreaming) focus. So when members of our community qualify, we're ecstatic. You could bet we'd be watching on race day for any news of our friends!
And that's just what I did. This morning, I watched the Facebook feed as our friends handed off their cell phones to hubbies and made it to the start line. "Enjoy the day!" I posted. "This is the celebration of months' worth of training and hard work!"
As the race progressed and the various corrals started, one of our run club members kept posting updates of our friends' progress, with their splits and anticipated times. Then, three hours and 40 minutes, later, one of them crossed the finish, re-qualifying for next year's Boston. The Facebook stream erupted in cheers for her, and then waited for our second friend to finish soon, as she'd also been looking strong.
I stepped away from my desk for an hour, and then when I got back, the unimaginable had happened.
For the next 45 minutes, all of us who were connected to anyone running (or spectating) in Boston scrambled to get news about our friends and family in Boston, all the while trying to stop our minds from imagining the worst. My Twitter stream was flooded with contradictory news, and I tried my best to navigate through the information.
I had chills up my spine as I watched a video taken in the immediate vicinity of the first bomb.
I was horrified that someone would think to turn a celebration of health and wellness into the scene of a horrific tragedy. I couldn't imagine how I would feel if I was minutes away from finishing a race after being on the course for almost four hours and heard the blasts, or if I was standing on the other side of the race course, waiting to cheer on a loved one.
There is nothing that can explain today's tragedy. As an editor, I realize that using a word several times over the course of several paragraphs is redundant. But honestly, all that I can come up with right now to describe today's events is tragedy, sickening and horrific. No other words describe it.
Eventually, my friends and their spouses were safe and accounted for. One of them missed the blast by 10 minutes because she had slowed down, even though she was on target to finish within a minute of the blasts.
I breathed a sigh of relief, all the while watching the news unfold with horror.
When we finally did hear from them, one of my friends had nothing bad to say except that the city of Boston should be proud of how they handled themselves in this emergency situation. Props to her for having perspective in a moment of crisis.
In the days and weeks to come, there will be reports that examine and attempt to explain the day's events. Those uninjured runners who traveled to Boston will return home, and sift through conflicting emotions - at the end of the day, they will say, things could have been much worse.
We will grieve the victims of today's tragedy.
Other runners will look ahead to future events, such as the London Marathon, and wonder whether they feel safe enough to run.
Race day is the celebration of months and weeks of training and determination - whether on behalf of the runners or their family members. It is the celebration of healthy living and inspiration. Race day cuts across political tensions and celebrates the triumphs of the human mind and body. It is the celebration of feats that to many of us are unimaginable - and yet we manage to cross that finish line.
And race day or no race day, runners or non-runners, Boston or elsewhere - there is just no excuse for what happened today.
My heart goes out to Boston tonight. But I know we will stand strong at that next starting line, and cross the finish together, arms raised.