I’ve crossed lots of finish lines. Some are just a line spray painted on a parking lot with only other racers standing around. Others are huge productions with lights, speakers, hundreds of people cheering you as your name is called – accomplishing a major goal in your life. No matter how extravagant the finish line is, they are all special. They represent setting your mind to something and following a journey that includes making sacrifices and doing things your didn’t think you could do…all to realize the dream of finishing a race.
What happened at the finish line of the Boston Marathon yesterday is tough for me to handle. Not only have a crossed lots of finish lines, I’ve also been a spectator at many. I remember cheering with my daughter as my wife crossed the finish line at the Throo the Zoo 5K a few years ago. I remember wearing my 4-week old son in a baby carrier and hearing the Lady Antebellum song “I Run To You” playing on the speakers as my sister-in-law completed the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon two years ago. I’ve been packed in at the finish line of Ironman Louisville several times. These are all amazing memories that will stick with me forever. I never once felt like I might be in danger while watching someone I know finish a race. I’ve never been concerned for my family and friends as they watched me cross a finish line. That all changed yesterday.
As news of the bombings started to trickle out, I immediately started to text and call friends that I knew were in Boston running the race. Our local triathlon club members were flocking to facebook to see if our fellow club members were ok. Runners and triathletes are a pretty tight-nit community. We train and race together year-round. We know we are “different”; we embrace it and wear it as a badge of honor. This was a tragedy for everyone, but especially for those of us that cross finish lines all the time. This hits a little too close to home!
I’m angry. How dare someone take away something so wonderful. There are so many emotions that go along with the finish line of a race. For those racing, for the spectators, for the volunteers. One of those emotions should not be fear…and now it will be.
What will finish lines at large races look like in the future? Will there no longer be spectators lining the streets? Will they be searched by bomb-sniffing dogs hours before the race and then locked down so that no one can come or go? Will they be lined with Police and National Guard soldiers with weapons drawn? Will they move finish lines to inside arenas and stadiums where they can send everyone through a metal detector before entering? Will everyone be on-edge, looking suspiciously at every bag and backpack they see? I’m not sure what finish lines will look and feel like now, but it’s sad that they will probably never be the same.
I try to remember that the world is not an evil place. It’s easy to see how good people are when you start reading stories of people helping strangers after a tragedy like this. Opening up their homes, offering food and showers. Donating blood right after running 26.2 miles. Giving strangers rides to wherever they need to be to meet loved ones. It’s not hard to find good in the world…it’s just a shame that our lives seem to be changed by the few evil people more than the millions of good people in this world.
I hope that race organizers educate volunteers and spectators on what to do if they see something suspicious; but I hope that race finish lines will not change. After 9/11 you heard lots of people say that if we live in fear, the terrorists win. I felt that way then, and I feel the same way now. As I type this, no one has claimed responsibility for the bombings in Boston. But it really doesn’t matter who did it or why they did. Let’s just not let this take away the magic that comes with finishing a race. I hope and expect runners and triathletes to continue to participate in large races…otherwise, evil wins.