“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” - Kathrine Switzer
The longest race that I have ever run was 10 miles and took place several years ago. I was in better shape back then. The route went through both woods and a suburb. Crowds of people cheered me on—people that I didn’t know. Periodically I’d come upon a small band playing music or a couple of middle-aged women doing cheers with pom poms. What a celebration!
It took a lot of training to be able to run that distance, and much of my training took place with a running group. I was one of the slower runners in the running group and I ran a shorter loop than our runners training for a marathon. They ran eight or ten miles as if it was nothing, and many of them did this before heading off to work. On the weekends, they did their long runs. I’d see them after they had run 15 or 20 miles. Sometimes they had run that distance with blisters. They came back tired and they’d stretch their sore legs, propping them way up the side of a gazebo. They would go home and take ice baths to ease the pain. They would see chiropractors and sports doctors to help them get over injuries. And they’d be running again in a day or two.
I have always had a deep respect for anyone who runs and completes a marathon. My sister and I would watch our friends run the Chicago marathon. We went early enough to see the elite runners come through around the halfway point. Then we’d cheer for all the runners while waiting for our friends to pass. We rang bells and we carried signs and balloons hoping our friends would spot us. Tens of thousands of people run the Chicago Marathon and it is hard to spot an individual runner.
After we’d seen our friends (or realized we’d missed some of them), we took the cross streets to get to the finish line so we could see as many friends as possible cross the line. We were giddy with delight when a friend or relative crossed the finish line. By this time, we were hoarse from cheering but we and the other spectators kept yelling and ringing bells.
I’d heard about the Boston Marathon from members of the running group. You can only run Boston if you meet a qualifying time for your age group in another marathon. Some of my friends would train especially hard for the Chicago Marathon, making every effort to qualify for Boston. Those who ran the Boston Marathon told of the many spectators cheering them on. When passing Wellesley College, the students would be cheering with extra enthusiasm. Then there was Heartbreak Hill – a very steep hill near mile 20. That is about the time many runners “hit a wall” in marathons–even in races without hills.
If you qualified for Boston, made it up that hill, and got to the final stretch, you had to be thrilled. Spectators would be clapping, yelling, and ringing bells. What a feeling of celebration for all.
On the morning of this year’s Boston marathon, I posted the following quote on the Women Making Strides Facebook page: “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon”. Watching a marathon is motivating and uplifting. It is a celebration of the human spirit, people going beyond their past limits. Marathon runners are wonderful role models with their “can do” attitudes, dedication to running, and discipline to achieve their goals. The spectators are also inspiring with their enthusiastic support for the runners.
This year, many runners at the Boston Marathon were unable to complete the race. The joyous celebration came to an abrupt end. Runners and spectators faced death and destruction caused by two exploding bombs. In a setting that celebrates strong bodies with strong legs, several people lost their legs. An 8-year-old boy and two adults were killed, and many others were injured.
One or more demented individuals caused mass destruction. We weep for the victims. For a moment, we pause and wonder if we should lose our faith in human nature.
But let’s note that scores of medical personnel and volunteers came to the aid of the victims. Boston law enforcement officials stepped into action immediately. Runners and spectators stopped to help others even though they were afraid another bomb would go off. Throughout the world, people have prayed and posted supportive comments on social media. Today, runners wore race shirts and ran 4.09 miles because the first bomb went off at 4 hours, 9 minutes after the start of the marathon. Local running stores are organizing charity races in support of Boston.
Marathon runners have said the horrific destruction that occurred will not stop them from running marathons again. Cities have said they will continue to hold marathon races.
Let us honor the spirit of the Boston Marathon by working to improve our own “can do” attitude, our dedication to fitness, our discipline to achieve our goals, and our enthusiastic support of others. Then the spirit of the Boston Marathon will triumph and we will be able to look at what took place this year and still have reason for faith in human nature.
What are your thoughts?