We Will Run...Boston!

posted Apr 19, 2016, 11:50 AM by Chris Compson

Cresting Heartbreak Hill

We will run!

One year ago, I crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon exhausted, disoriented from running in nearly 85-degree heat, but proud. Proud not only of the personal accomplishment, not only of the culmination of months and years of training, but proud that I was part of a 116-year history of runners striving for greatness. After yesterday’s senseless violence, the running community, and world at large, has been left questioning this history and meaning.

Marathon running has always been a celebration of life. The euphoria of the experience permeates fans and competitors alike. It is one of the rare experiences where finishing first or last holds no bearing. A 2:30 marathoner and a 6:20 marathoner share equally in the joy. There are no age, gender, nationality or performance barriers that prohibit someone from running a marathon. It is an experience that welcomes all, celebrates all, and nourishes all.

The Boston Marathon is a pinnacle of this celebration of life, and will continue to be even after these heinous events. For 26.2 miles, from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, crowds of spectators cheer from early in the morning until late in the afternoon without seats, in all weather, in celebration of the effort of the human spirit to accomplish tremendous feats. During last year’s record-breaking heat, spectators set up make-shift water stations along the course, dragged out hoses to spray the wilting competitors, and offered freeze-pops to any in need. This year, as the chaos swept the streets, spectators offered safe refuge in their homes, cell phones to contact loved ones, and quite literally the clothes off their backs to the chilled, confused and exhausted athletes. In the coming weeks, stories of the rallying efforts of the spectators, support crews, and emergency responders are certain to pour out. These stories reaffirm that the spirit that the marathon celebrates cannot be crushed by the villainous acts of a few.

The marathon, and the act of running in general, is a declaration of freedom. With each step we take, we assert our intention to move forward, regardless of the obstacles, in pursuit of our goals, dreams, and happiness. While yesterday’s attacks may have shaken that resolve and placed new obstacles in that path, they will not deny that freedom.

Yes, we will mourn. Yes, we will pray. And yes, we will run with heavy hearts. But we will run. After the massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972, the question arose of whether the games should continue in the wake of such a tragedy. In an address to the US team, Coach Bill Bowerman reportedly said, “[The ancient Olympians] knew there was more honor in our-running a man, than in killing him…competition not conquest.” In the wake of the tragedy that will forever mar this year’s Boston Marathon, our response must be the same. We will continue to rally around the victims, participants, and those affected with sympathy and compassion, and with each step we take as runners, we will declare that the meaning of what we do, the freedom it symbolizes, and the celebration of life it engenders cannot be destroyed.

Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and owns the coaching/training company Endangered Endurance. He can be reached at coach@endangeredendurance.com and www.endangeredendurance.com.