“Every mile out there is a gift.”
-Amby Burfoot, winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon
April 22, 2013, Washington, DC: Amby Burfoot was less than a mile from the finish line last Monday, ready to celebrate the 45th anniversary of his marathon win, when the bombs went off on Boylston Street. I heard him recount his story a few days later on NPR’s Fresh Air as I drove home up Independence Ave. and past the U.S. Capitol where flags flew at half staff to commemorate the victims of the Boston Marathon. When I got home, like so many others, I went for a run. Past the Capitol Police on the corner of Independence and 3rd, behind the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, out East Capitol and around Lincoln Park. The usual route, spiked this time with an unusual sense of patriotism.
I ran a lot last week, in fact. Undoubtedly inspired by those who ran the marathon and those who cheered them on, undoubtedly motivated by the neighborhood 10K coming up next month. On Thursday, I ran my occasional six mile route home from work, through Dupont Circle into downtown and east along Pennsylvania Ave towards Capitol Hill. The pedestrian plaza in front of the White House, a highlight on the route, remained closed due to increased security, but the crowds of runners and visitors out that day detoured around it and carried on.
In his column last Tuesday, Tom Friedman discussed the act of running as an expression of freedom symbolic on the broadest of scales. “Cave dwelling is for terrorists,” he said. “Americans? We run in the open on our streets.” On a narrower scale, maybe the one we’re more attuned to everyday, Amby Burfoot was right on: Running is a way to connect — to appreciate each mile and the good people who line the course along the way.
I don’t know Boston well, not as well as my sister or my husband or so many others sharing their intense local pride with the world. But I also don’t know Boston as well as the thousands of runners who ran through it last Monday, some visiting for the first time, passing by its schools and churches and corner stores, feeling its topography in their aching muscles, listening to its residents root them on.
This is a big part of why we run: To experience someplace one step at a time. To connect to its neighborhoods and its community, ultimately to understand more about its spirit. The miles we log shape us mentally and emotionally as well as physically. We run because we can and because every mile is a gift.
Boston has shaped us. Thankfully, we are miles from the events of last Monday and we’re still running.