There are few experiences in life that can fairly be termed sublime. In my experience, running in a road race or participating in a triathlon are two of them. While not a competitive runner or triathlete, every summer I put my best effort forth to train for and compete in a race or two.
The excitement of the day is matched only by my anxiety as the race approaches. Can I do it? Did I train enough? How bad will I do? How much will it hurt after? These are questions we all ask ourselves before the big day.
When you pair that anxiety with the companionship created by this event, by the shared experience with the other runners (who are also feeling highly anxious) and the crowd who are so unconditionally behind you, you feel something ‘other’. You are part of something bigger than yourself. You are connected to the other runners and the people cheering you on in a different way. It’s sublime. It is the greatest feeling.
But what of the runners moments before the tragic turn of events at the Boston Marathon this Monday? Running along, feeling the camaraderie of their fellow runners and the encouragement of the crowd, only minutes, even seconds from the finish line? How did they feel?
I imagine the explosion must have been an assault in this positive, supportive, celebratory environment. The impact, therefore, all the more shocking and the aftermath so disorienting.
Along with the horror of the death of 8 year old Martin Richard, and two others, I wonder if it is this juxtaposition of energy that has made the response to this event so powerful and moving.
Responses like the green stripe around the floor at the Toronto Raptors game while they played the Boston Celtics, the commemorative runs being organized by running groups across the world to name a few; all of these a testament to how viscerally people felt the events in Boston and how sport itself can offer a powerful way to connect and process what has gone on.
While many of us have grown cynical about sport when it is associated with people like Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong, this past week’s reaction to the what happened in Boston reminds us that sport can also be a source of connection and shared experience.
I so wish that everyday people like you and me don’t give up on thinking about participating in one of these running events because of what happened in Boston. In fact, maybe it will spur all of us on to take part for the first time. Doing this might be a way of powerful way commemorating the suffering that the runners in Boston and the fans cheering them on endured on Monday. It might also open you up to a new way of connecting to the world around you.