A Runner’s Thoughts on Boston

By Sabine Thier — May 13, 2013

“If you lose faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” – Katherine Switzer, marathon runner, first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry.

Monday, April 15, 2013 was the day of the Boston Marathon. As a runner, this is a day that I eagerly anticipate every year.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest and most prestigious city marathon in the world.  The race is considered the holy grail of marathons, and most runners aspire to run the Boston Marathon at least once in their lifetime.

Entering the Boston Marathon is not an easy task. The field of the race is limited to 27,000 runners, and in order to get one of the coveted spots, runners have to meet certain qualifying standards.  This means runners have to finish a marathon faster than the required qualifying times that are based on the gender and the age of each runner.

For many runners, qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a goal that they pursue for many years with great dedication, determination, and countless hours of training.

On the morning of Marathon Monday, I was glued to the screen following the progress of the elite athletes and was, as I usually am when I watch elite athletes run a marathon, awed by their seemingly super human power of running at what I consider lightning speed.

At the same time I kept receiving text messages from the Boston Marathon athlete tracking service informing me how my friend, who was running her first Boston Marathon, was doing in the race.

After the elite athletes has accomplished their amazing feats and my friend had finished the marathon with a very strong performance, I was a happy camper. I reveled in the achievements of my fellow runners. Everything was right with the world.

Until 2:50 pm.

That’s when the explosions happened, which turned my little world upside down.

Ever since then, throughout the uncertainty, the man hunt, and the eventual capture of the terrorists, I have been trying to come to terms with what had happened on this day that should have been a tremendous celebration for all the runners and their loved ones.

For days I was waking up hoping that all of this was just a bad dream. The bombings happened right by the finish line of the marathon.The finish line of a marathon is a magical place.  It is a place of tremendous relief, great joy, pride, and accomplishment. The finish line is also the end of a journey that began long before the start of the 26.2-mile race.

It is the end of a long road that took runners across hundreds of miles during their training, many highs and probably as many lows, possible injuries, and the sacrifice of spending hours away from family and friends in the solitary pursuit of ambitious goals.

It is hard to put into words how a runner feels on the final stretch of a marathon. When running a marathon, you are pushing your limits — mentally and physically.

The 26-mile trek leaves you raw and vulnerable. At this point it no longer matters what your social status is, what you believe in, or if you are a fast or a slow runner.

What matters in this moment is your core — your heart and your soul that helped you conquer the distance and carried you to this magical spot. In the end it boils down to putting just one foot in front of the other until you cross the finish line.

Another very special element of running a marathon is the spectators. There is nothing quite like running for 26.2 miles and having thousand of complete strangers come out for you, cheer you on, and hand you water and food.

It is a very uplifting feeling and the crowd support has helped me through many tough spots during the marathons I have run. I feel immense gratitude towards those people who take their valuable time to help carry thousand of runners to the finish line.

And often we have family members and friends come out to a marathon to support us and to cheer us on when we need it the most.

Those are the people who we left alone on mornings and weekends for months so we could prepare for our marathon.

Those are the friends that get to see us a lot less during marathon training because we either have to train or we cannot make it to the night out because we have to recover from training and catch up on sleep.

We runners sacrifice our time with our loved ones to pursue a hobby than can be pretty selfish at times. But yet those loved ones get up at ungodly hours to stand at the sideline for long times just to see us run by for ten seconds.

Again, I am extremely grateful to my family and friends who selflessly come to a marathon to cheer me on when I feel like collapsing on the pavement at mile 24.5.

On Monday, the terrorists attacked the people who make the marathon what it is — the spectators. They attacked people who went to the finish line to cheer on friends, family members, and complete strangers to carry them through the race and celebrate their accomplishments.

As a runner, this terrorist attack hit very close to home. Even though this attack will certainly not deter me from running future marathons, all week I kept mulling over whether marathons have lost their innocence and if runners will run with fear in their minds from now on.

But the overall reaction from the running community convinced me that this would not be the case. Since the attacks, there has been a great sense of unity among runners from all over the world, which has been very inspiring and uplifting in this dark time.

Runners are stubborn by nature. I guess you need to display a very healthy level of stubbornness to make it through marathon training and the marathon itself.

As marathoners we are conditioned to endure and be resilient in the face of adversity, no matter the circumstances, and that is why the running community feels the that terrorists messed with the wrong group of people.  Giving up is a verb that is not frequently used among runners.

In contrast, this event inspired many runners to train even harder so they can qualify and run Boston Marathon to honor the victims of the attacks and to show the world that runners cannot be scared out of doing what they love to do.

I will definitely continue on my road to the Boston Marathon. My last marathon brought me within two minutes of my qualifying threshold, and I will put my heart and soul into shaving a few more minutes off my marathon time so I can fulfill my dream of running the Boston Marathon.

After the events that transpired during the 2013 Boston Marathon, running this marathon has become more than just realizing a dream. The 2014 Boston Marathon will be run in memory of the lives that have been lost, and it will be a celebration of the human spirit as 27,000 runners will stamp out the evil that took place near the finish line on Boylston Street.


Images Courtesy of Sabine Thier (All of the images used for this article were of Sabine participating at various other marathons)


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