In the wake of the Boston marathon bombings, there has been more love directed toward this city than I’ve ever seen. But I have to be honest, going into marathon Monday I hated Boston. I had spent the weekend sitting inside the tiny apartment I share with my boyfriend in Charlestown thinking of the many reasons why.
On Friday I had walked over the Gilmore Bridge into Cambridge while cars were backed up in every direction and drivers were angrily honking their horns and speeding around each other. I actually swore (I never swear) at a woman who was beeping her horn right beside me so loudly my ears ached. I couldn’t breathe from the exhaust fumes surrounding me. I turned on the news that night to see a Boston cyclist complaining that she was always cut off by drivers and pedestrians. Cyclists hate pedestrians, pedestrians hate drivers, drivers hate cyclists, I hated this city.
That’s why, even though I didn’t get a qualifying time for Boston this year, I had to run the marathon. Because to me, the marathon is just pure love. It embodies the very opposite of all the things I sometimes dislike about this city. There’s space and air, there’s movement, there’s joy, and there are people who don’t know each other who take the time and the attention to really care for one another. The love you feel along the marathon course and at the finish line is real, genuine and uplifting. The energy is mind-boggling and contagious. And the runners are just pure life-loving people.
And that’s why, when shortly after crossing the finish line and soaking up the love from all these people, when I heard news of the explosions from a coffee shop nearby while I waited for my boyfriend to collect his father at the finish line, I, like everyone else, thought it was an accident. When I found out it wasn’t, and that there were casualties, and that people who hadn’t finished yet were being pulled off the course – people who had dreamed about crossing that finish line for years - I felt unbelievably angry. And I still do.
The assertion immediately following the attacks that we Bostonians won't let terrorism scare us or prevent us from living our lives didn't speak to me, because I was afraid. On Friday, when the whole city went into lock-down, my boyfriend and I snuck outside for a 6 mile run in the Navy Yard, and the whole time I expected to turn a corner to find Tsarnaev waiting for me with a gun. But I also realized that the alternative was worse. Cowering in our apartment listening to the radio in fear was no match for facing down that fear with each assertive stride.
I still don't know what the right response is. But now, with every run I take, I concentrate a little more on the way I feel as my legs move underneath me and my feet hit the pavement. I try to soak up every moment (including 40 degree runs in the wind and rain – in April) even more than I did before. With each step I move a little further from the fear and anger, and a little closer back toward love.