Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
Boston: a personal reflection
April 16th, 2013 by Peggy Aycinena
If you have ever run a marathon, or supported a friend or family member on the day of the race, you know what it is like at the finish line. All eyes are on that finish line — and the clock. The runners have reached the end of their physical limits and the people who are trying to see them finish are crushed together in a constantly shifting mass of onlookers, standing on tip-toes trying to see over the heads of the crowds to get a photo of their friend or family member at the very moment the runner passes through the gate. Nobody, absolutely nobody, is looking for danger.
Then, in the moments after the finish, several things happen. The runner is in this strange, mixed condition of total elation and on the verge of total collapse. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t done it, but that’s how it is. No runner at the end of a marathon, not a single one, is looking for danger. They’re looking for water and energy bars, they’re looking for those metallic blankets, they’re looking for the people who will give them their shirt and their medal, they’re looking for their loved ones, they’re looking for a place to collapse. And, their loved ones are looking for them. Nobody’s looking for danger.
If you have ever run a marathon, and have finally reached mile 22 or 23 or 24, you know that you’ve only got 4 or 3 or 2 miles left to go. You’ve started to think you’ll actually make it, you’re running through burning blisters, a swollen knee, stinging suncream in your eyes, and a zombie-like focus that has nothing to do with rational thinking. It’s the kind of thinking that has everything to do with surviving those last few miles, and nothing to do with danger of any kind, except the danger of not actually finishing now that you’ve come so far after so many months of training.
Meanwhile, for the people who are supporting the runners, when their loved one finally reaches mile 22 or 23 or 24, they’re probably not there to see the runner go by. Instead, they’re rushing to get into position somewhere near the finish line, knowing that if they don’t work to get there quickly, they’ll miss seeing their runner at the moment everybody’s been concentrating on for months and months. Those people are not thinking that their runner might get stopped back on the course, be disallowed from reaching the finish line, their fans, and their after-marathon celebrations. Those people are not thinking about danger. They’re only thinking about the clock.
It’s so hard for runners to prepare for a marathon, so hard to participate in the run, so hard for their supporters to bear up with the training and then to run all over town on the day of the race to watch runners slog along mile after mile, it’s all so hard to describe.
The one thing that is not hard to describe is the innocence. Everyone is consumed by innocence. Runners who run marathons and those who come out to support them are among the most unsuspecting people in the world. On the day of the race, they’re living in the moment, an extraordinary moment. They’re living the dream. They’re not looking for danger. Anywhere.
And that’s the way it will stay.
Innocence will always trump fear. Dreams will always trump danger. Life will always trump death. Always.
This goes out to my kid who couldn’t be at the finish line yesterday because it was a work day. My kid was at work. At a hospital. In Boston. My kid is a nurse.