Last Spring, I picked up a weekend trip to Amsterdam. I wandered the streets, ate great food, and lost myself in the local sights. I went to the flower market, bought a bouquet to tulips to bring home, walked the bridges taking photos, and enjoyed a Heineken or two. When I came back to the hotel, I opened my computer, preparing to wind down for the night.
On my social media, chats, and my e-mail, I had a flood of concerned messages from friends around the world asking if I was safe. The tone of every last word was insistent, concerned, and very out of character for those writing to me.
“Please tell (us) you’re safe, and not in Boston.”
Did I have a Boston trip coming up that I forgot about? My schedule is visible…
“Please tell me you aren’t running a race this weekend.”
[He] knows my running schedule better than I do…
“Where are you? …check-in when you can…”
Weird, [She] never e-mails me…. Neither does [He]…
I tackled the first chat message with a quick reply. “Of course, I’m safe. I’m on a layover in Amsterdam. What’s up?”
The pause before my friend responded felt like eternity. Four words finally made their way to me: “Turn on the news.” On my international layovers, I tend to relax to CNN and BBC World. Scanning the channels for something in English, I flicked to CNN. I smiled seeing the familiar scene of runners trotting, jogging, and sprinting their way toward the finish line. Then an explosion threw runners to the ground and suddenly people were running– running for their lives.
The date was April 15, 2013: The Boston Marathon.
The headline pounded the air from my chest. I couldn’t breathe. A ragged sob scraped air back into my system as tears mercifully blotted out the horrifying montage. My knees gave out, and I fell back onto the bed. Runners, spectators, and first responders scrambled to safety, but the damage was done. Domestic terrorists reeked havoc on the running community by planting bombs at one of the most iconic races. Words failed me, but I knew I needed to respond; to reassure everyone that I was in fact several thousand miles away in Europe.
As an avid reader and devotee to Runner’s World, completing the full marathon distance clouded my daydreams and races such as Boston or NYC were the ultimate pies in the sky. They felt incredibly unattainable, but my friends’ confidence in my my ability to not only complete one, but to qualify for Boston blew my mind. I drew on their strength to pull myself together and reply to each message, and reach out to my friends living in Boston. One friend was at the race, but thankfully she and her friends were accounted for and safe.
Running has brought me nothing but happiness into my life, but despite being an ocean away, I felt violated. The running community has always been a safe haven. It was the last place I thought that would fall prey to an act of terrorism, making the processing and comprehension of the magnitude of the situation utterly dizzying. I spent the night watching CNN and scrolling through news updates online. I needed to sleep, but I couldn’t. I showed up for pick up with bleary eyes from crying myself to sleep. My usual sweet dreams were a restless snooze, and I worked the flight back to Atlanta feeling like warmed over death.
In front of the passengers, it was business a usual. I hated myself for doing my job but checking my heart at the boarding door. I believe it was the first time I was completely stoked to work the international first class galley as I would be so focused on my mile long task list that I wouldn’t have time to stop let alone think. By the time my crew break started, I was physically exhausted from throwing myself into my work and emotionally bankrupt from the night before that I slept the instant my head hit the pillow. Usually I rely on the plane to rock me to sleep. I felt marginally refreshed by the time we started the second service, but by the time I commuted home, I showered and hit the hay.
The sport of running had been shaken to its very core by the selfish, despicable acts of extremists. Yet, in the wake of this horrifying tragedy, the running community did what we do best: we came together. We ran for each other. We ran our mouths for the cause and gained inspiration from the stories of survivors. We continued to crowd the sidelines and continued to cheer. We supported those who grieved and mourned those we lost. We rebuilt stronger than ever. We kept the running community running.
When I saw the Boston Wicked Strong Virtual Race at Races for Awareness, I immediately knew where my efforts in April needed to be directed. Their efforts have helped to raise over $3,000 for The One Fund Boston. This month, I will visit Boston for the first time, and not just the Logan International Airport! I do not know if my layover hotel is anywhere near part of the course, but I hope to lace up and pay my respects. Reading the stories of the survivors and their determination to keep running or remaining active, motivates me to become a more dedicated runner. I have not met anyone who ran the race, but it is my hope that one day, I can be on the rails giving high fives, giving great cow bell, and doing my part to help restore the order.
My ultimate goal for the month of April is 52.4 miles, two full marathon distances. One will honor those we lost at the Boston Marathon Bombing and the second represents solidarity for those lacing up only one year later on April 21st. I won’t be tackling it at the half marathon distance either. It’ll be a slow mileage progression throughout the month as each time I kick some asphalt, I want to be reminded that I’m not running this for myself, but for everyone affected. Some of the most incredible people I’ve met in my life either hail from Boston or currently call it home, so being able to finally immerse myself in such an amazing place will be a treat.
I’ll just make sure to leave my Yankees hat at home. 😉