Only human, after all.

[TW:terrorism]

As I write this, it’s been just over a day since bombs detonated at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Forgive me if I ramble a bit. I am only human.

I am still sorting my feelings, so forgive me if this post feels too raw, too open, too personal. But I cannot bring myself to market a book today, or to chat about writing, because my heart is screaming.

I am a runner.

I am a marathoner.

I ran my first marathon at age 26, in what I considered to be “the best shape of my life.” I’ve learned a few lessons–and run a few more marathons–in the past few years. And in between that first “best shape of my life, yo” marathon, and my most recent one (NYC 2011) I knocked an hour off my best time. Marathon running is a part of my life. I may never qualify for the Boston Marathon, and yet, there it is, at the edge of my consciousness, those two letters “BQ” (boston qualifier) every time I register to run my next.

An American dream, when economics offer few.

A feat of physical fitness–26.2 miles. I’ve done it four times. I do not take this lightly.

A bomb went off at the finish line of one of the most prized races in American consciousness. 27000 runners is fewer than New York or Chicago–both of which I’ve run–but it’s a bigger statement.

It’s Boston, y’all.

You have to qualify. This ain’t no first come first serve shit with Boston. You get the time or you don’t. It’s the hard ass, you get your shit together and you do this race, race.

No one can possibly know or understand why these people, my colleagues, my friends, my fellow runners and their spectating friends and families were targeted.

There is a part of me…as I am–weak, human, fallible–who wants to be all “you come into MY house??? you do this?”

But I don’t know who “you” is. I only know who I am. And I am a writer who runs. Who wrote most of her first novel in the middle of the night, laying awake with sore muscles as she trained for the NYC marathon. I am runner who writes, chewing over plot ideas with Becca as we plod through our weekly mileage, believing there is something better at the end of each run for the work. For the companionship, for the friendship.

And there is. There so is. There always is.

So when I am stunned by yesterday’s news, I am brought to mind a line from one of my favorite TV shows ever. I looked it up, because I am that kind of girl. I wanted to be sure I had it right. From the West Wing, Season four, episode one:

“they ran into the fire to help get people out… ran into the fire. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels tonight. They’re our students and our teachers and our parents and our friends. The streets of heaven are too crowded with angels, but every time we think we have measured our capacity to meet a challenge, we look up and we’re reminded that that capacity may well be limitless. This is a time for American heroes. We will do what is hard. We will achieve what is great. This is a time for American heroes and we reach for the stars.”

Run, America. Run for your very lives. I will join you. I am with you.

In Boston, if I don’t ever qualify, I will still boldly cheer you.

In New York, or Chicago, or Birmingham, or Grandfather Mountain, I will hold up my medal and cheer your racers on, because I have tread where they tread.

In the countless other races, across the wide world where the human spirit says “to hell with pain, give me glory” I am WITH you, my brothers and sisters. I embrace you.

A marathon is on some levels, a purely physical thing–it’s the bones and the joints and the muscles holding out. Anyone of a reasonable physical fitness could push his or her will through the race.

Any society could look at that will and see their honor, their spirit, their integrity in each grimace across the finish line.

My colleague and fellow writer Nulli Para Ora says: “We don’t run because we’re scared. We run because we’re alive. We run because we’re free. We run because it’s when we let everything go, and push ourselves past the barriers set before us. We run because we choose to, and we choose not to stop.”

Run again. and again. We are too tough to be terrorized.

11 thoughts on “Only human, after all.

  1. Its something that unifies us as humans – male, female, black, white, Canadian, Irish, African or American. It doesn’t matter what you or others call you – you are a runner and only, thankfully, human. Thanks.

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  2. Thank you all for the kind words–I am still really emotional about this, obviously. I am happy to say I am hearing lots of talk from running friends about signing up for marathons this fall to attempt to qualify for next year’s Boston Marathon. Clearly undeterred.

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  3. I cannot say I’m a runner by no means, Vanessa, and I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and pay attention to the tragedy in Boston, but I must say Excellent Post! And it’s not so much the runners targeted as the audience. Everyone knows children would be in that crowd. How can someone hurt anyone, much less a child? It boggles the mind! I’ve always feared being in large crowds and in recent years, my fear has only grown. It’s a shame that people are scared to take part in American pasttimes because of stuff like this.

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