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What the Boston Marathon means to me

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Almost 75% of Boston marathon runners are running to raise money for charities. The Dana Farber team raises money for cancer research, the Horizons for Homeless Children team raises money to support their programs, the Children's Hospital team raises money for research on illness that are ending the lives of young people. 75% of the runners are there to raise money for these and so many other organizations.

Then there are the Hoyts, a father and son team. They have run over 30 Boston marathons together. What is remarkable about the Hoyt's is that Dick Hoyt pushes his grown son, Rick, on a special wheelchair through every race. Rick was born a quadraplegic with cerebral palsy. And, every year this family runs 26.2 miles together.

For many of us who live in Boston, they ARE Boston. They are the spirit and grit of our city: hard work, perseverance, and belief in ourselves and one another. They inspire us every year to be better than we have been the year before.

Four years ago I joined them and ran the Boston Marathon as part of a fund-raising team for people living with AIDS. It was my first and so far, only, marathon. Running alongside thousands of other people, through streets lined with people calling my name and cheering me on, watching the miles tick away much more quickly than I imagined; this is one of the most memorable events in my life. I often tell people it completely made up for those 3 years in middle school when everyone was making fun of me. Thousands of people yelling: "Go Janet! Looking good Janet! You can do it!" I literally have never had so much affirmation in my life. I felt fantastic and amazing as I ran.

I trained for 9 months here in Boston to run that race. That means I trained in winter: running through ice, snow, dark dark mornings or dark dark nights. I ran for hours on a treadmill, spending at least two hours running every 4 days. Can you imagine? Two hours out of four days a week for nine months. People say the marathon is hard, but frankly, the training is much harder.

I have lived alongside the marathon route at mile 22 for 6 years now. We gather friends, host BBQ's and spend the day outside cheering the runners and walkers. We offer orange slices, water, and our belief that each runner can finish this race. In a city known for its chill, strangers come out of our thick winter shells and celebrate with one another. We express our belief in one another, in our city, and in spring.

I feel so sad about the explosions yesterday. I still cannot imagine that it occured. Tomorrow I go into my university classes, located 2 blocks from where the bombs exploded, and will try to offer comfort and support to my students. I want my students to see that in the midst of great sorrow and pain, we have the capacity to respond to one another with gentleness, understanding, and love. I want that beautiful spirit of the marathon, people helping other people, to continue to permeate the streets of Boston. I want us to rise up and to be our best in this moment.

So, to all the runners, walkers, marathon workers, fireman, policeman, and people of Boston, may we come together in compassion and love to heal ourselves and our city.
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