Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Devil in the Details

I don't consume news. I listen to NPR, but refuse to watch local or nightly news. I rarely visit internet news sites like CNN and when I do, it is only if I am looking for a particular story.

Surprisingly, though, I find myself on CNN.com tonight.

What is the name of the eight year old boy? Was he waiting to see a parent cross the finish line?

Who were the bombers? Are they in custody?

Why a marathon? Why the finish line? Of course we can answer these two questions as easily as we  ask them. Whoever the deranged loser(s) behind these murders, obviously they were looking for attention. The world's most famous race. Thousands of innocent people. A crowded location. The loser(s) have already received the notoriety they were hoping for and their name(s) haven't yet been mentioned.

But mostly, there is one detail I am eager to know. How did it feel to be at mile 26.1, the finish line in sight, exhausted, ready to collapse. And then have to start a new race?

I've been at the finish line of a large, well-organized race. Sweat dripping, my legs transforming from rubber to stone. My mind was chaos, disoriented. I could barely make it to claim my checked bag. I couldn't find the tent where I was supposed to check in even though it was large and purple and swarming with runners and volunteers wearing the same shirt I had on.

If an explosion had occurred, even an innocent, accidental one, I can only imagine how confused I would have been.

So how did runners -- exhausted, dehydrated, hobbling, many probably already dealing with injuries -- how did they sprint forward and start offering help? How did they have strength to deal with wounds they incurred when they were already debilitated? How did some continue on to donate blood? How did they move, even if just away from the sound of the explosions?

I am convinced I would have stood paralyzed. Not by fear, but by confusion.

Then there is a another question that will probably also go unanswered. The timing?

4:09. Was it an accident? 4:09 is impressive by most standards, but certainly not the fastest of Boston's elite. 4:09 in Boston would be older qualifiers, perhaps injured qualifiers, and charity runners. Were they going for a larger crowd of finishers as runners ended and hung out to cheer for others? I don't know  if I would feel any different if the explosion had been at 2:10:22, when the winner was crossing, but somehow this later timing seems even more tragic.

And then, lastly, when you get past the runners and think about the finish line of any race, even a 5K. There are 4 important groups of people: the runners, the spectators, the volunteers, and the police and paramedics.

When I think about the spectators, I'm crushed. I'm not the only one in my family who has been at the end of a big race. My children. My husband. My mom. My niece and nephews. My brother, brother-in-law, and sisters-in-law. Smiling, hugging, taking pictures. Celebrating with signs, "Go Team!" "You've got this." " I beat cancer, you can do this marathon."

Spectators are the unsung heroes of any race. They cheer just as loud for the pokies like myself as they do for the winners. I'm tempted to call spectators innocent bystanders, which is absurd since everyone in that crowd yesterday was "innocent". But the spectators are not simply there for entertainment. It's a marathon, it's not that exciting. They are there to lend support. They make the race possible, along with the volunteers and support staff.

I ran a Half on Sunday. During the race, I felt so lucky to be part of the running community. Where else can a middle age woman get cheers for a Sunday morning jog? A beautiful woman with an afro stood at the top of a vicious hill. "You got this hill, girl! Keep it up! You look great." My form picked up. I smiled. I pushed on. The kindness of strangers is so very real in a marathon. And those kind strangers deserved better than this.

The spectators at the finish. I want to know their stories. I want to consume this news. Why were they there? Were they pulling for a parent who spent the year training just to get here? Were they pulling for a charity runner who they helped raise thousands for cancer research? Were they locals, there to cheer for some of the world's most impressive runners? Were they thinking, "Maybe next year I'll train for one of these!"

Usually I find no value in obsessing over these tragedies. I turn off the news. The media will never answer the most important question of all: Why? I refuse to discuss, speculate. I refuse to sensationalize the loser(s) who perpetrated the crime.

But in the wee hours of the night, I find myself thinking of the runners and their families and everyone else at that finish line. It doesn't even seem real yet. And I find myself wanting to know more.

I know I won't be able to answer these questions. Not today, or anytime soon. So I'm going to accept that. I'm going to turn off the news and even facebook. I'm going to wear my favorite running shirt and I'm going to run today. I hope you'll join me. Even if you aren't a runner. Just go for a short jog to remember the victims and to celebrate the Spirit of Boston.

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