Apr 16, 2013

what the boston marathon means to me.

I remember the plane ride like it was yesterday.

I was in highschool and my dad had been trying to qualify for the Boston marathon for the first time. We were flying home from a race, I forget where it was, and we thought that my dad had missed the race qualifying time by 40-something seconds.

Dad was quiet. Pensive. Upset, but not wanting to show his disappointment while we were traveling home. He had worked so hard for this goal and missing it by mere seconds must have been heartbreaking.

Then, during the plane ride, dad chatted with the dude next to him who was a race official of some sort. "No," he assured my dad as my dad related his story, "the qualifying times include the whole minute."

I remember the wave of relief over my dad and our family. Dad had done it. He had qualified for the elite Boston Marathon, a dream of serious runners across the country. I'll never forget his face on that plane. My dad had held himself together so well in the face of personal disappointment, and then his hope that this stranger's promise was true took over for the sadness.

We checked online as soon as we got home and confirmed the man's words. Dad would be heading to Boston.

It didn't only mean a lot to my dad, it meant a lot to us. In his qualifying, we also qualified. My sister and I were shown an example of what it means to choose a goal and work for it.

In the years that followed, my father's running passion and ability skyrocketed and he would face the Boston Marathon starting line 7 consecutive times. What had once been a distant goal, a barely scraped by achievement became expected and tradition. Sometimes my sister and I went, sometimes we stayed home. Two years ago I flew home from China and did the Boston Marathon 5k with my mom. Last year my Mamaw and Gramps went to Boston with my parents and my Mamaw did the 5k. It's tradition, it's family time, it's part of who we are - runners, cheerleaders, sign-makers, and picture-takers.

This year was the first year my dad failed to qualify. He never has shown his disappointment, and he has accepted his knees that have faced the surgical knife and hips that scream from the repetition of years of running with grace and poise. My parents made the decision to journey to the beautiful Big Sur Marathon in California next weekend, meaning that they would not be spending Patriots Day Monday in Boston for the first time since 2006. The streak was over.

This morning I was awoken by a text from my little sister. "Have you seen the news about Boston?"

"No," I replied, not expecting her answer.

"Bombs?" I didn't understand. Maybe a crazy shooter, but bombs? It took a few moments to process.

Bombs exploded across the blue and yellow finish line? Bombs exploded across from the stands where I had sat year after year cheering on runners? Bombs exploded where my parent's friends were running? Bombs exploded where my mother would have stood if they went back this year? Bombs exploded outside the running store we always visited after the race? Bombs? In Boston? 

Thank God Mom and Dad aren't there. 

I am saddened and disgusted along with the rest of the country. I am sorry for the victims and those who are hurting. But closer to my core, I am utterly grateful. I am so happy my sister and I were not texting trying to get news about our parents on the East Coast while she is on the West Coast and I am on the other side of the world. I can't imagine if they were there. I am eternally thankful that my dad's knees are achy and he did not qualify. I am thankful for a dream deferred.

After the news sunk-in, I began to think selfish and defensive thoughts. "Now I am going to have to answer about this to all the Chin.ese people who will tell me how dangerous America is." Bah. Having to be the voice of America to random Ch.inese people I encounter on a daily basis is exhausting. Luckily, only one random person approached me on the street. "Why do so many people attack in America?" he said, wearing elastic waist pants and a smug smile. I replied, "I don't know, it's so dangerous, never go there." (I have been snarky/sarcastic lately.)

I love the Boston Marathon. I love the Boston Marathon because I love my dad. I love that we have created traditions around the race, that we have "favorite spots" in the city, and that I have memories of cheering at that finish line that will last my lifetime. I have learned the value of hard work, the resilience of the human spirit, and the limitlessness of the human body. I have witnessed the comraderie of the running community at the early morning bus drop off for runners, on the "T" with family members of runners chasing their runners around the city for photo-ops, and at the finish line. Feet from where the blasts went off.

If there is one thing I know in all this, it is that the running community is strong, united, and will not be broken by this tragedy. Any group of people who push their bodies to the limit for 26.2 miles surely will not be sidelined by an act of hate. Nor will their families who support them. The Boston Marathon is an elite family, though not a pretentious one. And I am proud that my family has been a part of it all thanks to my dad's own dream.

For every casualty of this crime, there are thousands more who were there whether in person or in spirit who are praying for them and thinking about them. For every act of terror there are millions more acts of love.

I hope my dad goes back to Boston one day. He has been pin-pointing "fast-races" to use to qualify for next year. Boston is still on the horizon and still a possibility for my dad's speedy legs and crazy-in-shape heart.

No matter if he qualifies again or not, the Boston Marathon will always be a part of our family. Where we watched our dad achieve a dream and carry us along with him.

No bomb can take that away from us.

Let's pray for the victims and their families. For those injured and those involved in every which way.

And let's be grateful for our families. Mine are in safe in Florida. Thank God. Oh, thank God.

walk slow. xoxo. 


Jennifer Crouch said...

A great post. I too am glad for the safety of your family. You all have made many traditions and memories around running. I am sure that will continue!

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