Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stay Strong for Boston

boston marathon

Yesterday, I started my day off by going on a long run through Peter's Canyon in Irvine, CA. It was a cold, foggy morning, and perfect for running hard and fast. I found myself flying down hills and surging back up them with ease, feeling something close to elation.

But when I arrived back at my car and checked my cell phone, I heard about the bombing in Boston, and it devastated me.

I've never been affected by the news of a terrorist attack in such a violent way before. I knew several people who were running, and my immediate thought was that they might be hurt, or even dead.  When I initially tried texting and calling the people I knew who were running the race, I received no response and my anxiety shot through the roof.

And of course, when I start to flip out, the only thing I want to do is go on a run.

So, I decided to go out again.

I drove to a trail 15 minutes away called "The Shrine Trail" (or as I like to call it, "The Walk of All Religions") at the Ramakrishna Monastery in Trabuco Canyon. The trail is decorated with eight different monuments, each dedicated to one of the world's major religions. 

Like Winnie the Pooh, I too have a thinking spot, and this is it. It was raining hard and a layer of fog seemed to hover over the path. I tried to concentrate all my focus on my breath as I ran down a misty trail lined with old, majestic California Oak trees. It was a surreal juxtaposition; the beauty of nature opening it's arms in front of me, and the destruction that I knew was unfolding 3,000 miles away.

Ramakrishna Monastery Trabuco Canyon
The Shrine Trail, Ramakrishna Monastery.
AKA 'My Thinking Spot'

Once my nerves were calm, I allowed myself to think about the events of the morning, and I started to pray for all the runners who were affected. I never know if it helps when I pray, but I figure that it can't hurt, so I do it.

In 2001, when I woke up to my radio alarm clock announcing that two planes had flown into the Twin Towers in New York City, my foundations weren't shaken as violently as they were yesterday morning. But I guess that's what terrorism is. Only before, I wasn't able to relate to the victims as intimately,  I didn't feel like the attack was a personal one.

This time, the target was a group of people who were striving to accomplish an incredible and extremely challenging feat, for no other reason than to prove that they could. They were marathon runners, just like me.

To add insult to injury, this wasn't any marathon. 

For you non-runners out there, the Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of marathons. To even qualify to run the race, you have to run fast. In 2011, the average marathon time for a 4:26 (four hours and twenty-six minutes) for a man, and 4:52 for a woman. If you are my age (twenty-eight) and want to qualify for Boston, you need to be running a 3:05 marathon if you are a man, and a 3:35 marathon if you are a woman. This basically means that by the time you arrive at the starting line for the race, you have probably already worked and trained strenuously for years. That's why for many endurance athletes, this particular race is sacred.

And so it is beyond my comprehension why someone would chose to attack this particular demographic.  There is nothing more terrifying to a marathon runner than the thought of losing their legs, which happened to many people as a result of the explosion. It is senseless and it is sadistic and it is infuriating.


But like any tragedy, if you look closely, you can find a silver lining.Despite the depravity and devastation of yesterday's events, people in Boston came together to support and help each other in a breathtaking way. 

Marathon runners, spectators, volunteers, first responders, emergency workers and medical personnel worked relentlessly to aid and assist dozens of injured people. If you watch the footage the explosions, you will see that almost immediately after the bombs went off, there are more people running toward the explosion to help the injured than people running away from it.

Also, thousands of runners who were still on the course when the explosives detonated were left stranded after the race was shut down at mile 25, without cell phone coverage, and no way to get to the finish line (where most likely their loved ones were searching for them frantically). Most of the competitors had just completed an extremely rigorous race course and were dehydrated, hungry, and probably more than a little disoriented.

Bostonians rose to the occasion immediately. People neighboring the course offered food and hydration to runners while they waited for more information.

A Boston local offers orange juice and comfort to displaced
runners after Monday's explosion.
Google mobilized their efforts and compiled a list of generous Bostonians who made their homes available to displaced runners. In two hours, three thousand people signed up on the list, offering rides, homes, meals, and comfort to the displaced athletes.


We've seen this same kind of human greatness displayed during other catastrophes.

While terrorism is intended to paralyze and beat someone into submission, it seems that it actually has the opposite effect on Americans. It is when we are at our most vulnerable that we are able to show the world our resilience as a People

We are all capable of incredible things, yet rarely have a chance to display it.

This is why we run marathons. We want to test the limits of our human potential. We want to prove to ourselves that we can defy all the odds and push ourselves to the threshold of our limitations, and then push a little further. And maybe the most important thing to remember in the midst of all this is that no person could ever complete a marathon without first believing that they could.
Fauja Singh, recently completed his first marathon ever at
the ripe old age of 100 years old.
Once we step up to the plate, and start believing that we can do something, a funny thing happens. We do it. We stop questioning our own abilities, we clearly see what has to be done, and the rest is easy. This is essence of the American spirit. It is our drive to be better, more efficient, smarter, faster, longer-lasting, and more innovative that propels us forward. It shows us that what was once impossible is now at our very fingertips.

The unique ability we have as humans to accomplish the unthinkable when we are given no other choice must extend beyond times of crises. Our capacity for generosity, love, support, and community is undeniable when we are presented with a situation where we can utilize it. If only we found a way to harness that spirit as individuals on a daily basis, can you imagine the result?

If we were constantly aware of the power that we have to impact the life of another, to change the outcome of a situation, to do something truly great, or just to be kind; every day would be an opportunity to exercise that power.

The fact is, today is that day and we all have that power.

Out of every trial and tribulation that you experience, always look for the hidden lesson. If you can find it, tragedy becomes a catalyst for growth. From horrible experiences, you can find the beauty and focus on that--instead of the ugliness that is sometimes difficult to ignore.

When we are broken down by life, we are given an opportunity to build a stronger, smarter version of ourselves. Let us use this opportunity to display the greatness that is lying dormant inside of us.

Even though you probably can't go to Boston and personally support the people who were injured in this race, you can make a difference in your own community. People are in need and suffering everywhere. Sometimes all they need is a friendly ear, a hand to hold, or a minute of your time.

If you are interested in helping out, I found a couple of good places you can help out through:

For a general fund to help out all the victims through, visit:          
One Fund Boston. 

Or for a more personal touch you can help Sydney and Celeste Corcoran, a Mother and Daughter that were badly injured in the blasts, visit:
Go Fund Me. 

Realize that every moment is your call to action, and challenge yourself to rise to the occasion.

Boston Marathon Bombings

Because at the end of the day, we need each other.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing/writing this. Very inspiring.