I’ve been across the marathon finish line. Three times. In three cities — Chicago, New York and Fargo — I ran 26.2 miles as fast as my training allowed and as swiftly as my legs, heart and mind would carry me.
I remember each finish, and the time it took me to get there. They are indelible memories, and happy ones too. I finished Chicago in three hours 31 minutes on a warm October day. I finished New York City in three hours 15 minutes on a cooler day in November in a city that was rocked just months earlier by the tragedy of the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. Eleven years later, older and slower but still determined, I finished in Fargo on a cool, windy spring day in May and tripped the clock at three hours 40 minutes.
The support from people, many complete strangers and street side by standers, was incredibly energizing at each race, and kept me going through each of the 26.2 miles. I had a friend or a family member at each race, but nothing was better than finishing the Fargo Marathon when I was met at the finish line by my wife, our 8-year-old and 5-year-old sons, and our 3-year-old little girl.
The kids didn’t think anything of the fact that I had just run more than 26 miles. They still expected me to hoist them up and give them a hug, and I was more than happy to oblige, no matter how shaky my arms or how rubbery my legs were.
The finish line is a place of reunion and celebration. It is a place where tears are often shed, but shed in joy of the arduous task just completed. Communities are there in full force to join in the strangely heartwarming experience that comes from the thousands of individual expressions of physical and mental exhaustion on the faces of common people accomplishing an uncommon feat. They cross the line, stop the clock, raise their hands to the heavens and declare it done, goal reached, perseverance paid off.
Now an evil that we wish did not exist, in an instant of detonation, turned celebration into disaster and chaos, took the joy of humanity and life and twisted it into sadness, mourning and disbelief. Count me among those in sadness, mourning and disbelief. And add to that incredibly angry.
The emotions of anger and grief rotated back and forth when I read that one of the three killed by the bombs was an 8-year-old boy named Martin Richard, a young man who went with his family to watch the race and to see the victorious finish for racers. Eight-years-old, the same age as my oldest son who did the exact same thing one year ago. Martin came to see the finish of a marathon with his brother, his little sister, his mother and father, nearly the same ages and the same make up as our family. But Martin Richard did not get to go home, his young life cut tragically short.
His mother and his little sister were seriously injured, among the more than 170 injured in the blasts at 2:49 in the afternoon on Patriots Day, the third Monday of April, at the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. We ask ourselves why anyone would do such a thing, but I don’t know if an honest answer exists.
There is a picture of Martin Richards that has become an iconic emblem of the day’s tragedy. In it, the wide-eyed boy who is said to have liked knock knock jokes, who won at math games and who stuck up for friends at school held up a hand lettered sign that read, “No more hurting people. Peace.”
True that. And a child shall lead them. No more hurting people. Peace. ❖
“No more hurting people. Peace.”
~ Martin Richards