If you want to know what determination looks like, go to the finish line of a marathon.
I realized this in 1999, when I dragged myself out of bed shamefully late on a Sunday morning, walked over to the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon and came home in awe of the agony and joy I’d seen on the faces of runners. Then in 2005 and 2007, I learned firsthand what it’s like to finish a marathon: triumphant, hands-in-the-air, yelling-out-loud elation, combined with a whole-body ache and stabbing pains in your legs that may lead you to crumple to the pavement after somebody hands you a finisher’s medal.
That moment caps months of training, possibly including waking up at 6 a.m. on weekends in July and August so you can run 13, 18 or 20 miles in the heat. Race day is, as people cheering along the course will remind you, your payday.
All this is to say that if anything could make the deliberate mass murder of innocents more vile, doing so at the finish line of a marathon would rank high on that list. The people who double-laced their running shoes this morning to make sure they wouldn’t come untied deserved that last sprint (or lurch), the final stomp on the timing mat at the finish line, and the giddy clutching of a shiny medal.
All of you who have clocked 26.2 miles, at some level you are my brothers and my sisters–so this feels like somebody went after my family.
It hurts further to see this happen to Boston. My brother lives just outside the city (and works only blocks from the finish line, but wisely chose to telecommute today); the Red Sox made a baseball fan out of me; I love visiting the place, and I really should come up with more excuses to go there on business. And at least two friends of mine have run the Boston Marathon. (My two MCM times were nowhere good enough to get me into Boston–but had I kept those paces today, I would have neared the finish line at about the worst possible time.)
Boston and runners, my heart aches for you tonight. But we will get through this.