Editor's note: Since this doesn't relate directly to the University of Maryland, Ben Broman and I decided it would be best if it was published as a fan post rather than within the main stream of the site. The post below represents my reflection on the Boston Marathon bombings Monday.
Following the tragic events that rocked the Boston Marathon and city of Boston Monday, I was reminded of how insignificant sports can be in the immediate aftermath of a horrific event. But they still play an important role in both our recovery and our ability to unite as one nation, especially when it comes to marathons, a sport where everyone wants everyone else to succeed.
Monday was a particularly busy day at work for me. Having finished a number of tasks on my "to do" list, I decided to pop onto Twitter for a moment, to see what was going on in the sports world. I knew Monday was Patriots Day in Boston and that the Boston Marathon was taking place. Over the weekend, my wife and I were talking about the crazy qualifying time necessary in order to even register for the Boston Marathon. For a man my age, I'd have to demonstrate my ability to finish a marathon in 3:05 or better, to qualify for Boston. Unfortunately for me, that means I'd have to knock just over three hours and thirty-five minutes from my marathon time, having finished my first marathon this past January in a swift 6:39:08. My wife and I laughed because even if I was 80+ years old, I still wouldn't qualify for Boston.
When my Twitter account loaded, I knew immediately that something was wrong. Every person I follow was tweeting about the same thing, each using their 140 characters to describe something horrible happening in Boston. Two explosions, seconds apart, had rocked the finish line of the marathon, featuring the corps d'elite of runners from around the world. I immediately thought of myself crossing the finish line a few months ago, looking around for my friends and family, full of joy and jubilation about finishing one of the hardest things I'd ever done. I couldn't imagine living that moment and having it turn from pure, unadulterated joy into sheer terror in an instant.
It's during tragic events like this when you realize how insignificant sports are in the grand scheme of things. You quickly ascertain that the blown call in last night's game has no real bearing in your life. You come to terms that that one moment represents just a fraction of the approximately forth-two million minutes the average person will spend on this Earth, one you'll likely forget about within a week. You feel almost foolish when you think about the time, emotion and energy we pour into sports on a daily basis when we're faced with horrible events like those that took place in Boston on Monday. That's because while sports have proven to be a great escape from the horrible tragedies we've faced over the years, a way for us to transition back to our normal routine, it's the horrible events themselves that leave a lasting impact on how we think, act and live our lives.
But when it comes to marathons, it's different. You're not talking about a sport where, aside from cheering, you have no real ability to control the outcome. With a marathon, you're talking about individuals, family and friends, who have put so much time and effort into accomplishing a monumental challenge. Marathons, and running in general, represents that rare blend of sport and individual, naturally tying both together. You're competing, but you're also part of a larger group who all want to see everyone cross that finish line. Rodger Robinson from Runners World provided a perfect description about what makes marathons different and unique:
Even without that special purpose, marathon running is a sport of goodwill. It's the only sport in the world where if a competitor falls, the others around will pick him or her up. It's the only sport in the world open to absolutely everyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or any other division you can think of. It's the only occasion when thousands of people assemble, often in a major city, for a reason that is totally peaceful, healthy and well-meaning. It's the only sport in the world where no one ever boos anybody.
If you're losing your faith in human nature, look at marathon crowds, standing for hours with no seating, no cover, no bathrooms, to cheer thousands of strangers. Or look at our sport's volunteers, on whose shoulders the whole sport rests.
Perhaps that's why Monday's attack felt much more personal to me. We've all thought about draining that last second jump shot to win the game, or hitting a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th, with a full count and your team down by 3. But with this, I could actually picture myself crossing that finish line when the explosion happened. I thought about all of the people cheering for everyone running, regardless of race, gender, age, or political ideology. I could imagine the panic I would feel if I saw a loved one running down Boylston Street, blown over from the force of a bomb exploding a few feet away. It was something I had experienced just three months ago. It represented an attack on one of the most prominent displays of good human nature. And it made me sick to my stomach.
One thing I learned, and now appreciate more than even when it comes to running a marathon, is the colossal amount of time that goes into training. My wife and I trained diligently over many months for the Disney World Marathon. From September through January, our weekends were planned around the long training runs that were necessary in order for us to be able to successfully complete the 26.2 miles we'd committed to run. When I reflect on how much time and energy I put into training, I can't imagine what it was like for those finishing or those who didn't have a chance to finish, to have all of that work, dedication and joy interrupted by a cowardly, despicable act. Seeing images of people injured, learning the horror stories of those killed, and thinking about all of those who were forced to stop at the 40K mark, with just 1.4 miles to go, made me cry. It impacted me in a way I wasn't expecting. Reflecting back on heart wrenching sports defeats, such as Kalin Lucas' buzzer beater that ended Maryland's NCAA tournament in 2010, seemed so much less significant. During losses like that, we sit and ponder what went wrong? How could this happen? But eventually we come to realize that, no matter what we thought or how much we analyzed the game, we couldn't have done anything to change or impact the final result. But in this instant, after this horrible tragedy, maybe there is something I could do to help. It wouldn't be much, especially to those who lost love ones or to those who are in critical condition throughout various Boston hospitals, but it was something. And I was willing to give it a try, hoping that it could have some positive impact on at least one person impacted by this horrific event.
After hearing that many runners were forced to stop at the 40K mark of the marathon as a result of the bombings, a mere 1.4 miles from the finish line, I decided that I was going to run 1.4 miles when I got home. I wanted to finish the race for those who weren't able, while showing my support for those impacted by Monday's events. I decided to call the distance a "Boston Mile."
After sharing my thoughts with my wife, she agreed that it was a wonderful idea. I proposed the idea on social media and friends and family from around the country decided to participate. After returning home from our Boston Mile, I learned that the idea had reached as far as South America, after a friend shared the idea on Fitocracy. I was blown away at how many people had quickly united together in support of those in Boston, running together for those impacted by Monday's horrible events. It represented one of those rare instances when we can come together and unite to do something good in a world where events like this are becoming all too common. I know it might not mean much to those who are suffering great loss in Boston right now, but I hope it helps restore hope that there is more good than evil in this world. I hope it helps restore some of the innocence and safety we lost from this attack. I hope it builds on the good nature and human spirit we've all seen in the people who immediately ran to help, despite a real threat of more explosions happening.
We're united behind you, Boston. The good nature of humanity will prevail over these cowardly acts.