I finished a marathon once.
It was something that took me months and months to train and prepare for. There were highs and lows, gorgeous sunny days and miserable wet nights. There was absolute euphoria and agonizing pain.
Running a marathon is an epic feat. It is a journey of body, mind and spirit. It is about pushing yourself farther than you ever thought possible...and then, even farther still.
By the time I reached the last five kilometres of my race it was, simply, mind over matter. One foot in front of the other. Physically, it felt like my body had nothing left to give - I was willing it to move, to push on. In the last stretch, with each stumbling step, my children's names beating through my brain. And then, when the finish line was in sight, pulsating joy as I knew I had done it...tears streaming down my face, my aching body floating. Victory.
I cannot imagine coming to that finish line and feeling anything but pride, happiness and relief. Yet, on April 15th, many runners in Boston experienced the exact opposite as they came to the end of their journey. Happiness and relief were replaced with shock and terror.
My heart goes out to those who did not have the finish to their journey they were expecting -- the finish that, after months and months of hard work, they deserved. Many of them have another marathon ahead of them in the wake of all that has happened -- they will have to dig deep and muster up the strength to put one foot in front of the other. And will themselves to push on.
What I learned during my training is that the community of people who participate in these incredible races are extraordinary. They are determined, encouraging and brave. Ironically, these are exactly the kind of people you want around during a crisis. The kind of people who, no matter what is on the road ahead of them, keep moving forward.
Many Boston marathoners, after running 26 miles, kept running. Their bodies weak and stiff, they ran to the aid of those who were injured. Some even kept running all the way to local hospitals where they donated blood.
Because that is what a marathon is about - you just keep going.