The sky this morning when I left the house cast down a sense of gloom, gray clouds rolling in from the west, choking off the small stretch of open sky to the east. I headed out to run as confused and scared as everyone else. About a mile and a half into the run, I came to the Capitol, where the flag stands at half-mast in honor of those killed and injured in Boston yesterday.
I nearly stopped to cry, and all I wanted to do was turn around and go home. The stark image of mourning—official mourning—framed by a dark, looming sky was nearly too much for me.
The politics of self-identity can lead to great things. They can uplift and unite. They also can drive wedges between neighbors, turn sons against fathers, and cause unimaginable pain and suffering. It is for these latter reasons that I have found myself fighting the natural urge to self-label myself as anything, really—whether that is as a runner, or a scientist, or as a Buckeye—as foolish as that may sound.
Now though, I find my line of thinking to be exactly that: foolish. What we all have undoubtedly seen from yesterday is horrific, but it is also fantastically uplifting. Just as in New York, where runners ran through the city and helped people sort through their homes, there was an immediate outpouring of help and assistance in Boston. A surgeon who had just finished the race immediately went to the triage tent and worked with doctors there.
Runners do amazing things, and whoever did this couldn’t have picked a worse group to target. You’d be hard-pressed to find a kinder, more resolute group of people on the planet.
The 26 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boylston Street is our spiritual journey, our Hajj. Nothing will change that. Ever since I failed to qualify in 2009, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if I have the resolve needed to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I know now, and the answer is yes—because I am a runner.
Runners’ retribution will not involve helicopters or toppled statues or international summits. Our retribution will be toeing the line, side by side with our brethren, heads high and smiling. It will involve handing out paper cups filled with Gatorade and handing out medals at a finish line.
It will involve celebration.
I headed out on my run this morning looking for some sort of answer, for some catharsis or anything, really to make sense of the world. I went out and forced a set of conditions on my run that made it impossible to do so, and so I ended up at the Capitol steps with tears in my eyes wondering if I should just go home and cut six miles down to three.
I didn’t. And so I continued westward, towards the dreary clouds lining the National Mall. When I got to the Washington Monument I turned around, and there was the answer that I had been looking for: an eastern sky filled with every pastel color you can imagine–yellows, purples, pinks, and oranges. The sun came up today and it filled the world with beauty, at least for a few minutes. And that will keep happening, regardless of how hard cowards try to take everything away.