Arguably the most hallowed day in all of running, the day of the Boston Marathon is a big deal. The Wellesley College gals make signs for anybody in the race, the climb up Heartbreak Hill is aptly named and most of all — you have to earn your spot in Copley Square fair and square.
Not just anyone and their ancient running shoes can lace up and take the streets of Boston, you have to qualify. You have to agonize over each and every race that’s come before Boston because those are the races that pushed you there. There’s no longer just the striving for the finish or the PR, once you decide to go for it there’s also a BQ.
I’ve only been running seriously for a little over a year. I’ve never seen what Marathon Weekend is like in Bean Town first hand. I’ve never ran a marathon. But I know that the day of the Boston Marathon is one where champions emerge, squeakers squeak by, not everyone finishes but everyone who starts begins a hero. At the very least, to themselves and their loved ones.
It’s this spirit of running that is present in all races, from these massive international monster marathons to the hometown 5k’s, that unites runners. We give strangers high-fives when we meet on the street. We talk about what distances we have left to do and which ones we return to. We ice and heat and foam roll and compress and lift and do all of our rituals to get us to that starting line. To prove to ourselves that we’ve made it, we can do it again and we can finish this thing if we have to crawl. We are our own best team mates, and largely, we’re all strangers.
So in an effort to understand how a group of strangers running for various causes and charities — even if their cause or charity is themselves — could be a target of something so painful and divisive, I ask you a favor. The next time you see a runner, smile. High-five. Wink. Nod. Rock out. Run. Do something to remind yourself that at our core, we’re all runners.
Anyone who’s ever felt for a split second the freedom and perfect synchronicity of your body in motion is a runner. Even if the last time you felt it was when you were 5 years old or 5 minutes ago, you belong in this club. We’re all in this club. It’s formal name is Humanity.