Run for Boston. It’s been more than five years since I set my sights on Marathon Monday. As I sit in the San Diego airport waiting to board my flight to Boston, I can’t help but think back. I printed out my personal contract to run Boston on April 1, 2012. At that point, I wasn’t anywhere near a fast enough marathon time. But I had Boston in the back of my head. It was a scary goal, and I thought it was impossible. And even when I did accomplish my qualifying standard, twice, I still didn’t get in.
Everything that has happened since I started running in 2010 has been building to this weekend. I’m overjoyed and overcome with gratitude, and I’m not even on the starting line yet. To everyone who has encouraged me constantly, thank you. To those who have supported me and continue to support me, thank you.
Running can be a selfish endeavor. Runners love setting high goals and meeting challenges. We also talk a lot about everything along the way. Every finish, every bad training run, every carbohydrate loading session. I’m sorry for how annoying I have been about my journey to Boston. It’s hard to describe how much this race means to me. It is my impossible goal that has become a reality.
After the Boston finish line bombings in 2013, I wrote about what the race means to me. I’m posting that four-year old column below.
It’s fun to look back and see how much has changed. The message is the same, however.
Run for Boston.
Three words greeted me Monday morning. The same as every other day so far this year.
Run for Boston.
That’s the name for my smart-phone alarm. An upbeat song plays. Those words flash on the screen.
Like a multitude of runners worldwide, I am determined to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon one day.
This year, that goal has become an obsession. I changed my phone background and lock screen to the marathon medal, signed a personal pledge stating that I will train consistently and with purpose, and, with the permission of my wife, even started growing a Boston beard, an itchy daily reminder of my goals.
So on Patriots Day, Marathon Monday in Boston, seeing my alarm brought added anticipation. It was race day.
Run for Boston.
It means so much more to me now. After two homemade bombs turned the Boston Marathon finish line, a sacred place of celebration and accomplishment, into an emergency triage center. After three spectators lost their lives and more than 150 others suffered injuries.
I watched the race all morning, streaming it online. While I’m still a long way from qualifying, I felt a sense of pride and connection with all of those crossing the finish on Boylston Street. I was joyful.
Then I left for a quick two-mile run. I returned to see a chaotic, devastating scene.
In the past, tragedy has pulled this country together. But the running community was already close. We smile, nod or wave to each other in passing during training runs, each one with an immediate feeling of understanding and connection with the other. We gather to share stories, laughter, and advice after pushing our bodies to the limit.
That’s why Monday’s explosions hurt so much.
It was an attack on all of us.
Shreveport has a strong running community. More than 10 local runners raced Boston Monday. Many gathered for a memorial run Tuesday, a symbol of solidarity with runners across the nation, a therapeutic show of support.
Mindy Newlee, a teacher at Natchitoches Central and former assistant women’s basketball coach at Northwestern State, was in Boston cheering for her friend, Victoria Willis, also a former NSU coach who is now on staff at Wofford College.
Newlee was in the crowd, near the first bomb, when she saw Willis finish at four hours. The two went down the street and made a turn, a 9-minute walk that kept both safe from the explosion.
“Everybody was frantic, with looks of worry on their faces,” said Newlee, who is also a marathoner. “Initially we thought it might be a gas leak. We weren’t thinking it was purposeful until later. People didn’t know what was going on. It’s scary, you know. It’s strange to go back and see the footage of the explosion and see right where I was standing.”
But Newlee knows she can’t stay afraid.
“You don’t ever know what the future holds,” she said. “It can be gone in the blink of an eye. You don’t want to live in fear. That’s my take on it. I’m not going to not do something just because I’m scared of what might happen. I’m going to go out and live life to its fullest.”
There is nothing that will erase Monday’s tragedy. Nothing can undo the loss of life. Many runners, family members, friends and fans will have lifelong horrific memories and disabilities because of the senseless blasts.
But runners will push through. We will stay together and be strong. I have read multiple columns from newspapers, magazines and websites sending the same message – keep running. So many positive stories have surfaced from Boston. Finishers going on to donate blood to help victims. Runners heading straight to the blast area to help save lives.
My heart has been heavy this week. Our running family will never be the same, and we will have reminders with added security and precautions at races from now on. But we will not quit.
My resolve has been strengthened. We will keep running. And when I hear the first tones on my alarm tomorrow morning, I won’t have to look at the screen to get the message.
Run for Boston.