Orlando

Runners, do you remember your first organized race in the days and weeks following the Boston Marathon bombing?

If your experience was anything like mine, it almost looked like a normal day. We still woke up at an ungoldly hour. We still slathered our whole wheat toast with peanut butter in one final ditch effort to carbo load. We still spent more minutes than we’d like to admit in the bathroom before pinning on a bib and hightailing our way to the starting line.

But when we got there, it wasn’t quite the same starting line we remembered. The formerly casual bag check had been replaced with a security-guarded system that took items in clear bags only. The corrals were far more gated than before to discourage non-runners from mixing into the crowds. The organizers had slung up a giant color-coded banner communicating to participants that the race before us was “alert level moderate.” They didn’t necessarily think anything was going to impact us between there and the finish line, but they wanted us all to be prepared regardless.

Prepared for what, exactly? Prepared for always being just a little bit nervous in a crowd, I guess. Prepared for suspiciously eyeing any innocently-abandoned backpack with growing concern. Prepared for understanding that the athlete’s great equalizer — the race course — wasn’t quite as safe as we all used to believe.

The Boston Marathon bombing changed the way we run races, but fortunately for most of us, the race course wasn’t the only place we felt like we could be ourselves. But what if it had been? What if it was the one space we felt like we could be who we wanted, act how we wanted, love who we wanted?

I had originally planned to write today about my self-diagnosed torn rotator cuff and all the pain it was causing me, but when I sat down to pen my complaints, all I could think about was Orlando. 

While I’d never been to Pulse, I this spring sang karaoke at The Mint Karaoke Lounge in San Francisco, and it was the friendliest, most judgment-free room I’ve ever walked into — even when I sang some terrible twangy country. To think that some LGBTQ people and allies might now show up to their favorite spaces with the kind of trepidation us runners felt after Boston makes me sick to my stomach. (So does dairy, but again, let’s save this for discussion for another time.)

I try not to get political on this blog, but the senseless murder of 49 people with an astonishing legal assault rifle in Florida this weekend isn’t even a political issue — it’s a human one, and one that makes THIS human very sad indeed. And I couldn’t let today go by without mentioning it. Today’s not a day to talk about goldendoodles.

I don’t know how you’re each mourning this terrible loss of life, but for those of you in NYC, there are several events coming up that you may want to have on your radar. The FrontRunners, a social running club for gay New Yorkers and their friends, is hosting a happy hour Thursday to raise money for GLSEN, or the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which seeks to end sexual-orientation-related bullying in schools. Then on June 25, the New York Road Runners and the FrontRunners partner to put on the 35th annual pride race in Central Park. It’s sold out, but you can still come cheer on your neighbors and friends in what is always the most colorful race of the season. That Sunday, of course, is the city’s pride parade. The FrontRunners say they’re going to be marching and giving out “Nice Legs” stickers — 10,000 of which I clearly want all for myself.

If you’re not in NYC, or if crowds aren’t your thing, maybe find your own way to help, whether it’s by donating to The Center of Orlando, an LGBT community group providing support to those affected by the shooting; or by giving blood; or just by being a little bit nicer as you go about your day. We’re all in this together people, and let’s all support each other through this terrible time. Sending lots of love to you all.

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