Ten years ago today, the unthinkable happened when domestic American terrorists attacked the world’s most beloved marathon. The attack was brutal, cruel and unprovoked. Many people were murdered and many more were injured in the devastating event.
However, despite the atrocity, in the days that followed, the city and the world rallied around the race. After all, you just don’t mess with people who run 26.2 miles for fun. The Boston Police Department was the 2013 World Hide and Seek Champions as they searched tirelessly for the perpetrators to bring them to justice.
Medical personnel responded, every day people lined up to give blood to the wounded. Everyone came together to support the Boston Marathon, whose finish line symbolizes hope, love and dreams to both runners and non-runners alike across the globe.
I ran Boston in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The only reason why I wasn’t there in 2013 was because a family member had a major surgery two weeks before the race and I stayed home to assist in their recovery. The first bomb at the finish line went off within 30 seconds of my marathon finishing time. I had friends who were in the race that year, and was watching their progress on the course through GPS tracking. When the bombs went off, all the dots tracking my friends disappeared and the screen went blank.
By the time I heard from all of my friends who were at the race that day, it was 3 am the next day. Thankfully, everyone I knew was safe. Many people were not.
Every time I “toe the line” and stand at the start line of a race, I do it with the knowledge that I may die on course. Typically, this would be a medical death. We have all heard the tale of the first marathon and how the runner died from running so far. I never thought that I might die from a terrorist attack.
Yet even though death is a possibility, the risk is well worth it to run a marathon. You see, the secret of the finish line is that the second your foot hits that finish line, you see the face of God. Whether you come in first, last, or someplace in the middle, the finish line is the moment in life when you truly touch the Devine. It’s that moment when you have achieved a feat that less than 5% of the human population will ever attempt. It’s the moment when your heart knows you have achieved the seemingly impossible and all your dreams come true.
I ran a race about three weeks after the bombing. I will admit, I was terrified. What if there were copycats? What if my race was bombed too? I still lined up. I wasn’t about to let a domestic terrorist scare me off from the one thing I love to do most in life. I will admit, as soon as I saw the bomb-sniffing police dogs, I instantly relaxed. I figured if the dogs were on duty, I was safe. The dogs would protect me. They did. They gave me the courage to take that first step off the start line that day.
Ten years later, I am still running #BostonStrong. I do not remember that day as a day that was torn apart; I remember that day as the day that brought the world together in solidarity. That is the essence of the running community. However, in the aftermath of that tragic day, even the non-running community came to experience aspects of the sport that we love the most: the love, hope and inclusivity that brings us all together on our way to our common goal of realizing our dreams.
This year is my retirement year from competitive racing. Soon I hope to achieve medal 26. I will not stop running, but I will stop chasing down medals. You see, running is a life long love. As we marathoners like to say: run, walk, crawl, or dragged, I will cross the finish line. I will keep running. However, once I achieve medal 26, I will stop chasing the bling. After all, I keep going for the love of running. Once I have 26 medals on the rack, I will have enough bling.
Today, April 15, is One Boston Day. Not only is it the anniversary of the marathon bombing, but it is the day that everyone comes together in community and service to try to make this world a better place. We honor those killed in the tragedy by bringing light out of the darkness.
We will forever be #BostonStrong.