Running up, over and through the cogs

New England Love: A Special 2013 Boston Marathon Race Report

319951_10151398455934436_529737444_nLife feels different today.

I’m more aware.  I’m more sensitive.  I’m more than grateful that my loved ones and I are alive and well.

Today, I should be celebrating my first Boston Marathon finish with friends and family over drinks and laughs.  I should be clinking glasses to mark overcoming a lengthy IT band injury.  I should be fist-bumping my pals to commemorate my very first negative split.  Instead, I find myself deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic and cowardly acts.  I find myself questioning humanity, wondering how someone could be so evil and so spineless as to hurt such a mass of innocents on Patriots’ Day, a day that traditionally brings so much love and joy to New England and all those who choose to be in and around Boston to run the world’s most prestigious and historic marathon.

Today, like much of the world, I am in mourning.

“If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

–Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon

Because of this mourning, and because so many families find themselves in pain today, I feel it would be insensitive and trivial to craft my typical first person progressive play-by-play race report.  At the same time, I think it would be equally insensitive to altogether forgo any writings on my experience, which is why I want to take a moment to applaud and recognize the people who really make the Boston Marathon such a world class event: the people of Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and Boston.  These are the same people who cheered me on as I crossed the finish line, the same people now gone or severely injured.  These are the people who deserve our recognition: the good people of New England.

The minute I arrived in the Commonwealth, I was welcomed with friendly smiles and a never ending stream of “good luck at the race!”  The people of Boston know how serious the Boston Marathon is and they recognize the diligence and hard work necessary to even qualify for such an event.  They know that theirs is special and that to just participate requires tireless hours of perseverance and determination.  They know this.  They respect this.  And they go out of their way to make us runners, coming from all corners of the globe, feel special and welcome.

From the good folks at the expo and the people at the hotel, to the waitstaff at restaurants and strangers on the street, I couldn’t walk 50 meters without someone wishing me well on the upcoming race.  I was told prior to arriving that that would be exactly how I would be received, but I didn’t believe it until it actually happened.

Such welcoming arms made me feel special, made me feel comfortable.  I wanted to run well, not only for myself, but for all of those who welcomed me with such warm, open hearts.

During the race, I was even more surprised at how many loving supporters came out to cheer us on.  From the very beginning in Hopkinton, all the way up Route 135 and into Boston, I ran on the deafening cheers of happy, smiling strangers.  Thinking that I might need a boost of encouragement at some point during the race, I wore my singlet with my last name (Lung) sprawled across my chest.  Instead what I received was 26.2 miles of “Go, Lung!”, “Lookin’ good, Lung!” and “You can do it, Lung!”, an auditory pleasantry that, even now recalling this, brings tears to my eyes.

But perhaps what impressed me most about this race experience was the pure love and joy along the course evident by how many families were out, together, celebrating the marathon and all it represents as a metaphor for life.  I saw so many young children and so many packs of friends and family united together, taking part in what has always been a great day to commemorate the human spirit.

That contagious and joyous energy forced me to hug the left side of the course, where I incessantly fed off the endless support and continuous high-fives from strangers.  I ran most of the Boston Marathon without thinking about my legs because I didn’t have to.  I had the crowd to ride on.

My finish was truly special, something I will never forget.  I was told that once I saw the Citgo sign I would be on the home stretch.  I saw it and suddenly my fatigue disappeared.  I became another person.  I sped up.  I still had a couple of miles to go, so I tried to hold back the tears of joy coming in response to being on the cusp of finishing the World Series of marathons, but I knew it was coming and I was overcome with happiness.

When I came down Boylston, heading towards the finish, I made sure to take it all in.  The crowd noise was deafening, but I heard just enough “GO LUNG”s to really kick it up a notch.  In the last 385 yards, I smiled so big my cheeks hurt.  I was in complete awe of the finish line celebration — the grandstands, the waves of people, the copious amounts of LOVE.

To know that just an hour and a half later that exact location that provided me with such everlasting memories of love, triumph and joy would be a murder scene more heinous than one could ever imagine, makes me sad beyond description.  My heart aches for all of those families affected by this tragedy and I desperately wish I could take away their pain.

While there might not be much I can do to accomplish that exact sentiment, I am determined to rise up with my Boston brothers and sisters.  I have decided I will re-qualify for the Boston Marathon.  I will be back to show my love and support for the very city that was selfless in supporting me and my efforts.  I will smile more.  I will welcome strangers to my city.  I will tell my people I love them.

My dad and I were lucky to have been near Fenway Park, about a mile and a half away from the finish line when the blasts occurred.  We saw the bee line of state troopers on motorcycles fly by, but didn’t really know what was going on until we crossed the river and were in Cambridge heading back to our hotel when a kind Bostonian stopped us to let us know there had been some sort of attack.  The immediate fear and chaos forced us to stay in and watch the news all night, relaying to our friends and family back home that we were indeed safe as best we could.

To say that we are lucky sounds a bit trite, but it is the truth.  Both of us are back in our respective homes now, safe and in perfect health.  The same cannot be said for Martin Richard.  It cannot be said for Krystle Campbell, nor Lu Lingzu.  It cannot be said for the 170+ innocent people injured during this cowardly crime.

“Boston is a tough and resilient town, so are its people. I’m supremely confident that Bostonians will pull together, take care of each other, and move forward as one proud city and as they do, the American people will be with them every single step of the way.”

–President Obama

Regardless of one’s political philosophy, the above statement is absolutely true.  I experienced the Bostonian spirit firsthand, and I promise I will experience it again.  We, as mindful human beings, will band together and we will always overcome the hatred of a few.

No amount of cowardice will ever stop that.

Advertisements

15 responses

  1. Thank you so much for this post.

    I live in Boston and it’s still all rather surreal. I am so grateful for the community of my city and the community of all runners.

    Thanks, again.

    April 16, 2013 at 17:44

  2. Pingback: On the 2013 Boston Marathon | Dan's Marathon

  3. Thanks for sharing, Jeff… it’s one thing to observe Monday’s tragic events through the filter of television and online newscasts, but quite another to see it through the eyes of someone who ran the course and lived the moment. It’s painful to imagine the roller-coaster of emotions you must have experienced, from the pure elation of crossing that finish line to the surreal horror of all that followed. Even 3,000 miles away, by the end of the day I was emotionally drained.

    Keep running and keep writing… it takes a lot more than a small group of cowards to hold us back.

    April 17, 2013 at 00:54

  4. You always have great recaps, but this is something special. Great post about a great town, and a great marathon, no matter what.

    April 17, 2013 at 12:55

  5. Ed Kelly

    Well said, Jeff!

    April 17, 2013 at 19:45

  6. Kaitleen Gillis

    Coming from Boston I appreciate your post. I live in Delaware now, but with my family all in the city Monday was scary. I love that you want to requalify. Marathon runners are the wrong group to try to scare off.

    April 17, 2013 at 21:36

  7. Glad you and your father are safe, Jeff. My heart goes out to those families affected by the attacks. Your courage is admirable!
    -Mike

    April 17, 2013 at 23:57

  8. Dan

    I read this as soon as you posted it but didn’t comment. I guess I wasn’t in the right state of mind at the time. But I wanted to say that this was such a great approach to the recent turn of events. I have yet to read any Boston finisher’s post about the actual race itself, mostly because they rightly feel like it might be the wrong time to do so. But your angle was very tasteful and elegant. I have to commend you for that because so often we get caught up in our own personal struggles when writing about long-distance running that we forget to acknowledge those who make our triumphs possible.

    Well done, sir.

    April 19, 2013 at 10:53

  9. I thought your post was amazing Jeff! You’re truly an inspirational person, and I think your perspective following such a tragedy is wonderful. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and running it, have never really been on my race ‘bucket list’ but after what happened this year, and after reading your post, it most definitely is now. Maybe we’ll meet each other there some day.

    Thank you for posting.

    April 22, 2013 at 05:22

  10. Pingback: Lux Aeterna and Oreos: The 2013 Ice Age Trail 50k Race Report | TheRunFactory.com

  11. Pingback: 2013: A Year of Patience, Perseverance and Perspective | TheRunFactory.com

  12. Pingback: Back to Boston | TheRunFactory.com

  13. Pingback: Running Through the Center of the World: The 2014 Boston Marathon Race Report | TheRunFactory.com

  14. This design is spectacular! You most certainly know how to keep a reader amused.

    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost
    moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Excellent job.

    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
    Too cool!

    September 7, 2014 at 15:51

  15. I have been exploring for a little bit for any high-quality articles or weblog
    posts on this kind of area . Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled
    upon this website. Studying this info So i am satisfied to exhibit that I’ve an incredibly good uncanny feeling
    I came upon exactly what I needed. I so much no doubt will make certain to don?t forget
    this site and give it a look regularly.

    September 9, 2014 at 22:47

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s