Patriot's Day 1994
I sat in the open bay window of my apartment on Beacon Street, legs dangling on the fire escape, tapping the ashes of my clove cigarette into an empty coffee cup as I cheered for the wheelchair athletes streaking past my building. The night before, some friends and I headed toward the finish line which was blocks away, taking photos with our cheap cameras. One of crossed, then another in our clunky Doc Martens, hands held high. It would be the closest any of us would come to finishing a race, we told each other. We were 19, 20, 21.
After watching the wheelchair athletes I'd pour vodka into orange juice bottles and meet up with my friends. We'd walk along the race route toward Fenway, screaming and cheering, just a bunch of asshole college students, just enjoying being a part of something.
Patriot's Day 2013
Yesterday I sat nursing my cuts and bruises from the previous day's obstacle course when the news started to trickle in over Twitter. Turning on the TV I saw the familiar sight of my old stomping grounds married to photos of stunned runners wrapped in Mylar blankets. Like everyone else, I started going through my Facebook friends list, knowing that some of my friends were running, and a particularly close friend was volunteering at yesterday's race.
Everyone checked in. Thankfully, they were okay.
When my husband Will ran the LA Marathon for the first time in 2012 (he completed his second this year), I was not prepared for how moving it was seeing wave after wave of runners of all ages, sizes, and color with the single goal of putting one foot in front of the other for 26.2 miles.
At 20, I was joyous and rowdy. At 40, I was joyous and humbled at watching the flood of humanity sweep by while people clapped and screamed and cheered. There is something awe-inspiring about not only watching marathoners, but being around the people - some friends, most total strangers - who cheer other total strangers on, marveling at their determination. There is an amazing sense of community and awe that you don't see often in life.
Yesterday, Ezra Klein wrote 'If You Are Losing Faith in Human Nature, Go Out and Watch a Marathon,' where he details this phenomenon much more gracefully than I. Go read it. I'll wait.
Bombings happen all over the world. Terrible things happen everywhere. Terrible things happen here. In trying to process what happened yesterday, many will tell you what you're supposed to feel, how you're supposed to feel, what you're supposed to concentrate on to get you through the days ahead.
We're told to turn off the news. Nothing good is going to come from the news. No, turn on the news. We can't ignore what's happening in our country's front yard. Don't look at the photos. They'll give you nightmares. No, look at all the photos. We shouldn't sugarcoat the atrocities of the world. Tell your kids. Don't tell your kids.
All I can say is be kind to yourself and to others today. And for the love of everything, don't read the comment section of anything to do with yesterday's tragedy.
Some other useful pieces of advice:
It's nearly 20 years after that day I sat dangling outside my apartment window on Beacon Street. Nearly twenty years later with a giant race in my sights this weekend: the Ragnar Relay, which will see me and eleven teammates in two vans running 200 miles from Orange County to San Diego.
As I laced up my sneakers to head out to Crossfit today, I decided to skip it.
I'm going for a run instead.
Edited to add: People Who Watch Marathons is another excellent read.