I Am Not a Marathoner

I don’t run marathons.

I have friends who do, and their names were the first ones I plugged into the marathon site after explosions turned the finish line into a crime scene. None of them were running in Boston today, but they run, and the first picture I saw was of a man with his legs blown off, and all I could think was that that man is a runner.

Running’s weird. It’s strange and hypnotic and cultish; I used to joke to a runner friend that she was just telling me all the work would feel good eventually and really nobody wanted to admit that the emperor had no clothes and this sucked. I think it’s because it’s solitary. It’s just you and the road, you and the treadmill, you and your playlist. You against yourself: Your time, your pace. You can run in a group but make no mistake: YOU are the runner. Eventually it all pinpoints to you, your body, the song in your head or the sound of the street, and the pounding of your feet on the pavement.

Here’s what I felt when I ran three miles outside for the first time: Like I was going to fucking die, first of all. Like I could lie down in the pile of leaves under that tree there and never finish the route, and be happy with that decision. Like my left hamstring and my right lung were going to mutiny. Like this was going to hurt like a motherfucker tomorrow. Like this was the dumbest idea I’d ever had.

And like I was the only person on the face of the earth. Like I was the last person left, just me, and the only sound on earth was the sound of my harsh breathing, and one block more. One block more. One block more. Always another step forward, always a little bit farther than I thought I could go, always just a second longer. One more hill. One more song on the list. One more, one more, one more. Until I was rounding the corner and could see my building, and knew I was home.

Someone turned home for those runners into smoke and screams and carnage and fear. Those people were runners and the finish line is home and someone took that away. Dozens of them are wounded, badly. That man, with his legs blown off, that man was a runner. I don’t know what running meant to him but I know what it means to me.

It means solace. It means accomplishment. It means I can do what I used to tell myself I couldn’t do, and it means I can do anything I want to do, and it means I’m enough, me and the pavement and my shoes and my playlist, we’re enough to get something done. It means I’m okay, and someone stole that today.

Lindham said he and other runners were halted on the course as police tried to determine what was going on.

“It became apparent that this was something big. They started yelling at us to get the hell off the course,” Lindham said. “Then we saw other runners coming in our direction, yelling things, and they were obviously very scared.”

Lisa Vasallo, 45, of Dedham, was in the tunnel leading to the final stretch when police stopped runners. They waited for word that is was safe to continue, and then heard the news that there had been explosions. Residents from the houses along the route brought out food and water for the runners.

“My first thought was my children,” said Vasallo, breaking into tears. “I knew they were at the finish line.” She was later reunited with them.

I followed Twitter for hours this afternoon and read most of what I could get my hands on, like everybody else. I donated and posted and retweeted and then I did the only thing I could think of. I went for a run.


6 thoughts on “I Am Not a Marathoner

  1. The thought in my head, over and over again, is of how those runners must have felt just before it happened, so close to the end.

  2. veteran of a dozen or so marathons and countless 5 and 10Ks,but can’t run anymore because my knees are shot.
    i miss running to the point of dreaming i can still do it, and you sum up the joy of it beautifully.
    thank you!&

  3. this was beautiful A. – i’ve been running most of my life and i always come back to the “it’s just me and the pavement” theory.
    the boston marathon is and will always be the most goal orientated run there is. it’s not like other marathons where you just sign up – you have to run a number of marathons the year before and submit your finish time to qualify.
    my heart aches for those fellow runners and their families who were affected.

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