I don’t normally run on Mondays. Monday rest days have been ingrained in my running schedule since my college cross country days. Those were the afternoons spent reading on the university lawn, wiggling my naked toes in the cool grass, enjoying the break from my running shoes. Many a glorious Monday were spent that way, and Monday rest days carried over into my adult life, just like Tuesday speed work and Sunday long runs. After all, we humans are creatures of habit… runners possibly even more so.
Occasionally, just to keep things interesting, I do change my schedule. Sometimes it’s nice to get that long run over with on Saturday and every now and then I’ll skip the speed work on Tuesdays. But Monday rest days… those have become an institution for me during the past 17 years. Not unlike a cup of Earl Grey with half and half and plenty of sugar every morning.
Following several days of no running at all, I contemplated a Monday morning run today just to get the blood flowing. Nothing fancy, just an easy three-miler with my dog. When my alarm went off at 6:15 this morning, it wasn’t too hard to talk myself out of that easy three-miler with the justification that today was Monday rest day. I went to work telling myself I would resume my normal schedule with Tuesday speed work tomorrow.
I imagine it is most distance runners’ dream to qualify for and one day run the Boston Marathon. It certainly is mine. I have tried and failed to qualify multiple times in the last twelve years, coming closest in my last marathon in 2010 and missing the mark by 90 lousy seconds. The following year, the Boston Athletic Association announced new qualifying times, which meant that I would have to knock off those 90 lousy seconds plus five more minutes to qualify. Knowing the intense training I would need to do to make the cut, I have not run a marathon since then, and so the goal remains on my list, among many others. In the meantime, I have enjoyed watching the footage of the Boston Marathon on TV and supporting my friends from afar who have run it over the years.
Early this afternoon, I learned that tragedy had struck the Boston Marathon. It was a tragedy that reached well beyond the running community… within minutes, it seemed that everyone I know who has an online presence was posting messages of concern about the safety of their loved ones, friends, and fellow runners. It seemed that everyone knew at least one person who was either running, watching, or had a family member or friend running or watching the Boston Marathon today. I was certainly no exception; several of my friends had traveled to Boston for the world’s most prestigious marathon, excited and ready to cash in on what was supposed to be a glorious pay day following several months of hard winter training. What they got instead was chaos, terror, and mass confusion after running 26.2 miles. That is, if they were even able to finish before the race was shut down.
They trained for those miles during the coldest months of the year, on dark late afternoons and even darker early mornings. They trained in wind and snow, on ice and in subzero temperatures. It is those conditions that force you to ask yourself how badly you want to succeed… how prepared you want to be, and how important running is to you. Though I have not run Boston, I have trained in those conditions, and I can appreciate the mental battle that often ensues when the alarm clock goes off and staying under the covers seems like a much better option than venturing out into the cold (not unlike this morning). It is on such mornings that I appreciate running the most. I am often the only runner out on the road, and all I can hear are my footsteps and my breath. It is on such mornings when I feel the true purity of running.
Today that purity was contaminated. In a single moment, someone stole what I consider to be the greatest source of inner peace away from thousands of people. Whether they finished or not, whether with a personal best or not, every runner who toed the line in Boston this morning will forever associate today’s tragedy as their Boston Marathon experience. And that’s not to mention those who lost their lives or were injured, and the family members and friends of those people. My heart aches for them and their loved ones. How dare someone rob so many people of what was supposed to be a beautiful, joyous day? Why do people keep terrorizing each other? What is wrong with the world?
I then asked myself, what is wrong with ME? I had turned off my alarm this morning, rolled over, and closed my eyes for twenty more minutes because I didn’t feel like running. I thought, Eh, I’ll start my week with Tuesday speed work. I’ll run tomorrow. And it’ll be fine. What I didn’t consider was, what if there is no tomorrow? I didn’t need a rest day today. I am not in the middle of a regular training schedule. Why would I ever take for granted the thing I love to do most and tell myself that I’ll do it tomorrow? I felt ashamed for being lazy this morning. And so, after work, I laced up my shoes and went for a walk/run with two friends and silently dedicated it to those who, after today’s tragedy, won’t be able to run tomorrow.
I am grateful to report that everyone I know who ran Boston today is safe and sound. Some even emerged from the race with personal bests, and I hope they are able to celebrate that success in light of such tragedy and sadness. Today’s events will forever change the world of the major marathon… I imagine not much unlike the way September 11, 2001 changed air travel as we know it. It is a sad, sad day when running on a crowded street to the screams of cheering fans is no longer safe.
Thank you for reading.