An anonymous blog reader with terrible typing skills, questionable computer privileges and the twitter handle golden.doodle12 emailed today to ask when I’d move on from Boston and start posting gratuitous dog photos again.
The truth is, I don’t think most of us will ever truly move on. The events on Boylston Street that transpired a week ago Monday left both the running community and the nation as a whole feeling targeted, confused and downright terrified in a way only terrorism itself can muster. Shops along the race course may be reopening and the Boston Police Department may have a suspect in custody, but with the understanding that that could have just as easily been me crossing that finish line, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say I don’t think I’m going to be ‘moving on’ any time soon.
I’ve had a lot of friends ask me whether I’ll hesitate to sign up for future races in the wake of last Monday’s attack, and I have to be honest – there does in fact exist a new element of apprehension for me and I imagine countless other athletes alike. I used to worry about PRs and whether I could ramp up mileage quickly enough when I submitted online race registration forms; now, I have a whole new set of previously unfathomable concerns.
“We lost some innocence and some vulnerability on Monday,” Marine Corps Marathon Race Director Rick Nealis told active.com. “It was a wake up call.”
It’s in some ways tempting to give in to the anxiety. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time. Plenty of New Yorkers avoided public transit in the aftermath of September 11, and some travelers still prefer not to fly. Heck, I myself have barely set foot in Times Square since the thwarted 2010 bombings, although – let’s be honest – that’s more a personal decision to maintain my sanity than a survival tactic.
But if we are going to truly move forward from last week’s tragedy, we can’t be living in constant fear. Yes, something absolutely horrendous happened and yes, it could have just as easily been you or me or any of us crossing or cheering alongside that finish line. But choosing to forgo the things we love as a result – be it traveling or racing or (ugh) even Times Square – isn’t the solution. Cliche, sure, but true: if we retire our running shoes because of the heartbreaking events in Boston last week, the terrorists win. Also, the couch makers. And probably diabetes. And no one wants diabetes to win.
So in addition to all the other wonderful things I’ve witnessed people doing in the aftermath of Marathon Monday – from donating to The One Fund to volunteering in the community to simply being a kinder stranger on your next Brooklyn-bound 4 train – I ask that you also do this: sign up for a race.
Whether you’re a seasoned athlete with multiple contests under your belt or a novice walker with no visions of grandeur, there’s an event out there for you. There are countless websites that compile lists of nearby races, like active.com and runningintheUSA.com, and with offerings ranging from timed miles to ultras that would make Scott Jurek cringe, there’s something for everyone.
There are literally thousands of races out there and they all have their merits, but as I personally look to dedicate a summer’s worth of training and my race-day performance to the victims of last week’s bombings, there’s only one event that will do. So yesterday evening, I put my anxieties aside, dug out my credit card and filled in my first race registration form since the Boston race clock read 04:09:43 and our worlds were overturned. And I think it was a good choice.
I realize the New York City Marathon isn’t for everyone, but if we all go out and sign up for an event, it will mean something. It will allow us to honor those who fell last Monday, it will prove we won’t be terrorized and – above all – it will demonstrate that we’re beginning to move forward. And luckily, moving forward is something we runners are good at.
What will your race be?