“If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathon runners are the wrong group to target.” -David & Kelvin Bright
These words rang loud and true when Gilbert Tuhabonye – an ambassador of Austin’s running community – commemorated the Boston Marathon victims at a community vigil. As we bowed our heads in silence for 26.2 seconds, I was overwhelmed by the raw emotions that took over the sea of runners.
Decked out in glow sticks and our favorite race shirts, we all stood together in honor of the Boston Marathon victims. As I looked around the massive crowd, I was struck by a powerful sense of solidarity. The hugs, the tears, the reassuring smiles, the unified run around Town Lake – everything about that night was like chicken soup for the soul.
It’s hard to believe the Boston Marathon – a symbolic event of joy and charity – could be the target of mass destruction. The gruesome images of victims and blood-soaked sidewalks immediately stirred fear and doubt in my mind. And that’s exactly what the terrorists hoped to accomplish. Little did they know, they targeted the wrong group.
Here’s the thing about runners: They push through in fierce defiance of adversity. When their tired bodies beg them to quit, they ignore the pain and come out stronger and more euphoric than ever! Marathon runners aren’t just in it for themselves; they’re in it to raise money for charity, to honor dead loved ones, to support each other, to exemplify the power of the human spirit. You can see it in those images on TV – people running into chaos to carry a blood-soaked stranger to safety, marathoners rushing straight to the blood bank to save lives. After looking at those heroic acts of kindness, my fears and doubts were quickly replaced by a surge of faith in mankind.
That feeling of pride was strengthened last week when I ran for Boston at Town Lake. I couldn’t think of anyone more perfect than Gilbert Tuhabonye to comfort Austin’s running community during this dark time. In his autobiography “This Voice in My Heart,” he gives a gruesome eyewitness account of how he survived – physically and spiritually – a brutal massacre. As he hid under a rubble of dead bodies, he heard a voice inside saying, “You will be all right; you will survive.”
It’s inspiring to know that someone can survive such an unimaginable nightmare and come back fighting. It just goes to show that the power of faith and human strength can get us through just about anything. Some of you might be rolling your eyes at my corny platitudes, but that’s okay. Go run a marathon, and I promise those cynical thoughts will disappear.
Long before I ran my first race, I already experienced the palpable sense of joy emanating from the spectators. I love standing on the sidelines and giving the runners high fives with my fellow cheerleaders. I’m surrounded by thousands of perfect strangers, but we all seem to be knitted together by sheer good will. As I watch for my husband, I cheer on the legions of beleaguered runners at mile marker 22. I like to stand at this particular spot because it’s known by many as “the wall.” It’s where runners start to feel the pain and need that extra push to propel forward.
This is going to sound really corny, so please bear with me. The first time I experienced a marathon as spectator, tears welled up in my eyes when I saw a runner embrace her family after she crossed the finish line. Okay, go ahead and laugh because I’m being a complete cheese ball, but it might not seem so silly once you experience a marathon for yourself. It’s a testament of strength, perseverance and drive. I’m so proud of my husband for completing multiple marathons, and helping his fellow Gazelles push through “the wall.”
I know all too well what it means to conquer that wall – in life and on the racetrack. Despite the pain in my legs and the lack of oxygen in my lungs, I’m always craving that indescribable sense of euphoria that comes from a long run. At that, I’ll leave you with these inspiring words that I found on the Fifth Third River Bank Run blog.
“…Running is a gift. Today is a gift. We took off for our run with a renewed perspective. Running the mile today was less about getting a specific time and more about getting together as a running community and running as hard as we could for a mile. It felt great to run hard. I felt like I was able to leave all my mixed emotions on the track as I ran. I felt like we were proving that runners don’t quit. Runners are willing to get up early on Saturday mornings, push their body to exhaustion/pain and run through disgusting weather … and then go out the next week and do it again. Runners don’t quit. We aren’t afraid and our sport isn’t going anywhere.”
“…Let’s run. Let’s run in solidarity with our runners/spectators in Boston. Let’s run because we know that there is good in this world and we will not live each day in fear. Let’s run because we know that we need race day, spectators, and other runners in our community.