Imagine that you are a runner competing in the 117th annual Boston Marathon. The cheering crowd is full of energy and exuberance. Your breath is shallow and your body exhausted, but you find that thought within yourself that tells you to dig deeper. After many more tired strides you see the finish line in the distance. All of the hard work and months of training have led to this moment: you are about to cross the finish line of one of the world’s most premier races. What does this moment mean to you?
Most would answer that the finish line, especially that of the Boston Marathon, is emblematic of glory and accomplishment. To even gain entry to the race based on qualifying times is a feat for most. For those capable of entering such a fiercely competitive field full of elite and seasoned runners, the finish line connotes this feeling of accomplishment that surpasses months of preparation and sacrifice.
But what happens when your vision of crossing the finish line is marred with tragedy, and the feeling of accomplishment is overcome by despair? How do you move forward when the end goal becomes the site of immense pain, suffering and betrayal?
In a matter of minutes, two explosions transformed the finish line of the Boston Marathon from one of the world’s most prestigious running destinations to a scene of widespread devastation and panic. Three were left dead and hundreds were injured. The name “Heartbreak Hill” assumed new meaning beyond a reference to its challenging terrain. The Boston Marathon finish line became ground-zero for a horrific crime, evoking feelings of fear and anguish rather than accomplishment.
But what if we misinterpreted the real symbolism of the finish line, the quality that resonates with and inspires many to reach it one day? Maybe we were so focused on achievement as the end result that we forgot about the grit and guts that carried us along the way. Perhaps instead the finish line symbolizes perseverance the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure or opposition. In this context, the finish line of the Boston Marathon becomes something much more powerful- even when marred in tragedy. Just as it inspires us to persevere through fatigue and pain until the race is run, it can inspire us to persevere through mourning and recovery until we grow stronger in unity.
All across the country there are examples of recovery and of people coming together to honor the victims of the bombings. One suspect is dead while the other is critically injured and in custody. The 180 injured victims that arrived at the hospital last Monday are all expected to survive. Relief funds including The One Fund Boston have been established to support the recovery efforts. Businesses are reopening and residents are slowly making their return to Boylston Street. Grassroots movements to raise money and honor the victims of the bombings through organized runs have expanded across the country. Even the Yankees paid tribute to Boston, their longtime rival, by playing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” (the Red Sox anthem) between innings at a recent game. These examples are only a few of many ongoing relief and recovery efforts, but when combined they send a strong message for Boston and for the nation: we are strong; we are resilient; we are united. Even when tragedy strikes and the feelings of accomplishment are lost amid pain and suffering, we can find comfort in the new meaning of the finish line. We will persevere.
—————————————————–Guest Post by Alyson Reaves — wife of The Drive’s co-founder Dan Reaves and a life-long runner that has competed in numerous races from 5Ks to marathons (she ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2008 and actually qualified for the Boston Marathon).
Many thanks to Aly for her wonderful contributions to The Drive!!