I just wanted to take a moment to express my thoughts on the 117th Boston Marathon. It will only take a minute or two, so bear with me. I don’t like writing anything spur of the moment – I usually need a day or two to think before I type. So here goes….
Monday morning, I went into work pretty psyched up because I knew a number of people that were fortunate enough to earn a bib in the Boston Marathon. The 117th version of this race was scheduled to go off at 10am, and the pack of professionals included Wesley Korir – a dude that basically breaks the sound barrier when he runs. Kara Goucher and Shalane Flannigan were representing the U.S. in the elite women’s field, giving us one heck of a shot at a podium finish…and maybe even a win.
This race, to me (and I’m betting a lot of other runners), is one of my longer-term goals. In order for me to qualify for it (Boston is a race which most runners need to qualify for by completing another marathon over the prior year within a set period of time), I need to run 26.2 miles at an average pace of 7 minutes and 14 seconds per mile. That would get me a finishing time of 3 hours and 11 minutes. This time would give me a 4 minute cushion to my Boston Qualifier (“BQ”) time of 3 hours and 15 minutes. Knowing that I currently can run a 5k at a pace of 9:13 (and at the end I feel like heaving as if I were being forced to listen to Justin Beiber sing….), this equates to me needing to shave 2 minutes off of my 5k pace per mile…and then hold that pace for 23 additional miles. That’s why I said it was one of my longer-term goals. It’s going to take some serious time and training to do it. And THAT is at the heart of why I feel the Boston Marathon is so special. It’s what it takes to earn a spot toeing the line on Patriot’s Day. It’s tough. VERY, VERY TOUGH. A bib in Boston is earned through a ton of effort. To me, it’s appropriate that the emblem of the race itself is a unicorn, because sometimes I think that the effort it will take to earn that medal resembles a mythical quest.
Sitting on New Jersey Transit on my way to Dante’s sixth circle of hell at 7am Monday morning, I was Jonesing for a running fix. So I began setting up my Ipad so that I could easily track my cousin, my coaches and my friends & team mates. I looked up the location of the streaming video of the race, so I could easily dial it up at exactly 10am. I read my copy of Runner’s World. It was simply one of those days where I couldn’t get the sport of distance running out of my head. By the time I got to my desk, I was all set for a productive yet festive morning / early afternoon.
Now you may be thinking: why would this morning be described as festive? While I may not be participating in this awesome event, I know tons of people that are. And one of the greatest lessons that the sport of running has taught me is two-fold – so brace yourself, as I am about to drop some knowledge on you. Ready? OK. These two incredible lessons I’ve learned are:
· Distance running gives an ordinary person an opportunity to achieve a goal that he/she once thought of as impossible, thereby proving that any goal can be attained with the right amount of the four D’s (Desire, Dedication, Determination and Discipline) (I took that one from Mr. Austin, our strength & conditioning coach at Fordham Prep), AND
· The only thing more satisfying than having a finisher’s medal draped around your neck is the opportunity to motivate / assist / support / be in the corner of someone else that’s chasing down their own challenging goal.
I was psyched for my teammates and friends. Envious – yet completely psyched. At 10am, the gun sounded and they were off.
We all know what happened about 4 hours and 9 minutes into the race: two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing 3 people and injuring over 140. As of right now, no one knows why. I kept watching the news and reading the data feeds all afternoon and into the evening, as the number of wounded kept slowly increasing from 20 all the way to the current number of reported injured. Whoever the colossal tool was that committed this evil act, he/she failed to realize two things:
· Bostonians have a lot in common with New Yorkers. Both cities have a resiliency about them that is not easily duplicated. John Stewart said it best: Boston and New York have a big-time rivalry in place….but it’s like a sibling rivalry. We understand each other. We speak the same lingo. Both cities have original six hockey clubs (oh trust me – that’s important). And the people of both cities are tenacious. So whoever the moron was that committed this crime, he / she didn’t comprehend the simple fact that the locals are made of strong stuff – strong enough to see them through this tragedy.
· The bombs may have evidenced the blood-curdling evil that some individuals may have coursing through their veins – but horrid acts like this also shine a light on the heroism and selflessness that humanity can offer in its darkest hours. Marathoners that ran 26.2 miles continued to run to the local hospitals to donate blood. Course officials, Boston PD and EMTs ran toward the blasts to help total strangers, thinking nothing of their own safety. So for every dark alley there is a bright thoroughfare to offset it.
I want to wrap this up with one last thought. As Monday night turned into the wee hours of Tuesday morning, I finally decided to try to get a little sleep. The events of the day rattled me a bit more than I cared to admit, given the fact that I was 200 miles away. But this long day reminded me once more to be thankful for all of the gifts in my life: the people that dwell within it, the health that I enjoy, the little things that fill the odd minutes of the day and are the genesis of the stories I share, and the opportunities that constantly surround me that I rarely grasp on tightly to and nourish to fruition. Days like today make me sit back and take stock of just how fortunate I am. It forces me to ponder the decent things that I have done, as well as all of those times where I (and please forgive me for quoting from a freakin’ Harry Potter novel – but I’ve got a geek gene that cannot be surpressed) chose to do what was easy instead of what was right. Days like Monday, April 15th 2013 give me the jolt that I need to adjust the course I am on and motivate me to do just a bit more to help those that need assistance. As I have been telling my daughter – Mini Me – since the day she began kindergarten: “be thankful for what you have, and don’t be mad about what you don’t”. I fell asleep in the wee hours of Tuesday morning very, very thankful – and filled with a bit more motivation to make a positive difference in the environment that surrounds me.
From one New Yorker to my Bostonian friends: we may not see eye-to-eye on the whole Yankees vs. Red Sox topic…but just as the banner sent from Berlin to the NYC Marathon in 2001 after 9/11 said: UNITED WE RUN. Although I’m not the most religious dude in the world, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this tragedy. It’s a sad day. It will take time to recover. But just like marathoners get through The Wall, Boston and the entire running community will get through this…and we go on.
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