Forever in our Hearts…

Boston Marathon logoBy: Joella Baker

I intended to write an article about women’s health for our May edition, but the recent tragedy in Boston encouraged me to change my article.

As a long-time runner, coach and two-time Boston Marathon finisher, I’m heartbroken over this tragedy.  For those of us who run, running is our “happy place.”  It’s where we turn to relieve stress, think and just run.  It’s hard to explain what running means to those of us who love it so much.  As for the Boston Marathon, it’s the Super Bowl of running.  People run for years just trying to qualify for this prestigious race.  The amount of energy, hard work and time away from family and friends to be fit enough to qualify for this event is incredible.  Preparing for the actual race is even more challenging both physically and mentally. 

For the more than 17,000 runners who crossed the finish line on April 15, their day started with an excitement that is almost indescribable.  For more than 26 miles, the streets of Boston, from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, are lined with spectators who offer high fives, cheers, oranges, drinks and more to these runners.  These individuals make each and every participant feel special.  You know it’s your day; these spectators made it your day.  As you make the turn down Boylston Street to the finish line, you can’t help but cry tears of joy.  You’re about to finish the greatest road race of all time.  I know the feeling–the feeling that you’re invincible because you ran and finished the Boston Marathon.  You did it!  It’s now time to celebrate.

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There were no celebrations this year in Boston, only shock, terror and tears.  I had two athletes and so many running friends at the race on April 15.  Their accomplishment will forever be tarnished by the tragedy that occurred.  However, I hope that every runner who did race that day will recognize that we are all proud of their race, their accomplishment and most of all their ability to deal with this tragedy.  Those who offered support to those injured, who did everything they could to get to their loved ones and friends is what our running community is all about.  It’s not about the race; it’s about who we are as runners.  We stick together no matter what.

The prestigious Boston Marathon, the running community and the lives of Americans will never be the same again.  Something as simple as going for a run and training to race on a day where thousands should be celebrated is now forever clouded by a terrible violence that continues to haunt our nation.  Words can’t explain the fear we all now have.  A simple sporting event that the everyday athlete can participate in is now no longer safe. 

My son Zachary is 10 years old.  He’s been at the finish line at Boston and many other finish lines at large and small races across the world watching me race.  He could have easily been a victim of this tragedy.  Today, he’s now concerned about the Pittsburgh Marathon.  My Get Fit Families Running and Triathlon Team sets up a Cheerathon Station at mile 25.5 at the Pittsburgh Marathon.  We hand out water and Gatorade, fruit, cookies, Coca Cola and more to the finishers of the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Zachary is now asking if we will be safe at this race since we’re so close to the finish line.  The endless tragedy that our children continue to face from the movie theater shooting in Colorado to the Newtown School shooting to the bombing in Boston is simply frightening.  The future is scary for us all.

I wish I knew how to truly comfort his fears, but in reality, I’m just as frightened.  Yes, we must continue with our lives.  We can’t live in fear, but even something as pure and grand as the Boston Marathon is no longer safe.  Our running community, who always finds comfort in running and racing, no longer feels safe.  We now fear for our family’s safety as they watch us complete these events, and we now have fear for our own lives. 

We know our sport has changed forever.  Large races will change.  Security measures will increase, and we can expect courses to change in an effort to keep thousands safe.  We know our sport will change.  It has to change. We can’t afford another tragedy like this.  Of course, through it all, we will prevail.  They will race in Boston again and all of the other races we love so much will go on.

We will continue to pray for the families who have been affected by this tragedy.  They will hold a special place in the hearts of every runner.  They are the people who support us, who cheer us on no matter what, who believe in our dreams and help us to achieve them.  These people are as much a part of the running community as those of us who log hundreds of miles.  Without them, we couldn’t cross the finish line.  Without them, we wouldn’t celebrate at the end of every race.  Without them, running wouldn’t be the same.  To the victims of the Boston Marathon Tragedy, you all will be remembered forever in our hearts.