Monday, April 15, 2013

A Bomb Is the Opposite of a Marathon

Runners are more than familiar with pain. It's our bread and butter. We love to hurt. We believe in endurance, in suffering, in brutal and soul-withering work.

But ours is not a violent sport.

See, there's a difference between pain and violence. Violence violates. You see it so clearly in what happened today. The morning showed pain as triumph and pain as failure. The suffering carved out on the face of Dulce Felix (what a sweet name) as her legs no longer worked, as her glory faded into defeat, as the marathon gods smote her for believing too much, for wanting too much, was noble suffering. The suffering of loss, but sensible loss, human loss. This sort of loss was not a violation because all it risked was victory -- such a small thing in the grand scheme. Sweet happiness led the race, and then faded. Such is life. It requires endurance.

With Jeptoo we saw strength overcoming pain. We saw her, after 24 miles of hard running, run harder. We saw the glory of a healthy body at the peak of its talent, at the peak of its performance. We saw what can be, sometimes, in rare moments: a life almost without limits. A picture of fragile triumph.

The Boston Marathon is, in many ways, a celebration of human effort. We come together on Patriots Day to remind ourselves of the joy and pain of work and effort. Everyone who has taken the marathon seriously knows that to make your peace with the marathon means learning to love the grind over the result, the pain over the triumph, and the hard push over the finishing time. Marathoners embrace these things because in a race so long, there are few perfect races. Doing well is always just that: doing well. We never do our best, but we do enough. That's what endurance means.

That would have been lesson enough. But when two blasts rung out around 2pm, running experienced violence. We were violated. Those two blasts introduced pain without effort. Suffering beyond endurance. A bomb is quick, thoughtless, grotesque, impatient, unfeeling. It's all externality, no internality. All destruction, no training. All noise, no silence. All damage, no strength. A bomb is the opposite of a marathon.

We opt for violence when we can no longer endure the difficulty of living with others, the difficulty of recognizing our limits, the difficulty of being vulnerable ceaselessly to pain. To endure is to keep going in spite of those limits and the pain of life. To endure is to expose ourself to the world, to others, to the ravages of time and effort. To endure is to risk loving, to risk being loved. A marathon doesn't always have to symbolize this. Sometimes it is just a race that runners run. But this year it is more -- it is a symbol of endurance.

A bomb is the opposite of a marathon.

Tomorrow, despite the bombs, we will be running. We will be afraid, but we will not fight. Or rather, we will fight by not fighting, by choosing flight, we runners, we believers in endurance.

26 comments:

  1. I was hoping you'd write and I'm glad you did. You are the poet of our sport and I'm happy to be your reader.

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  2. So beautifully stated, Jeff. Endurance...

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  3. Jeff, great write up. I am very hurt by this tragedy. The problem is this is reality. People want and will hurt their brothers and sisters regardless of reason. We cannot always run from violence and it's reality.

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  4. Jeff, you are more eloquent than I; more disciplined as a writer, a runner, a person, but this is one time where I wish instead of writing you had just kept running.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Danny. Writing is also a form of endurance, as we never communicate perfectly, but I guess the way I see it is that we have to do it anyway.

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    2. Not that I didn't enjoy seeing another LLD post come up! :)

      That two word sentence: "Violence violates." resonates with me. If you ever want to do a follow-up post let me know I have a couple ideas.

      I am intrigued to see the long-term consequences of this action. I don't think that destroying anything is the proper path to a better way of living, but I do believe when we are dealt the cards of life (good or bad) it is amazing to watch all the spontaneous goodness come out.

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  5. Jeff, as usual, I love your articles/posts, etc. I appreciate and agree with everything you said, except for one word in the last paragraph. Afraid. If we are afraid, they win. Let's take flight without fear.

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    1. Thanks, Bonkin. I guess I thought that true courage requires being a little afraid. Or, at least that's what I wanted to say.

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  6. You are a legend in your own time...... a poet for the ages.

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  7. Perfect....You wrote what my mind has been trying to say!!!!thank you

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  8. Thank you Jeff. This was a fantastic read.

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  9. jeff -- thank you. your reply is simultaneously well-thought and immediate, like a bit of first aid for the soul.

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  10. Awesome essay, Jeff. You're a good writer. Thank you for expressing yourself so beautifully. ——Jimmy

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  11. This is why I come to your blog. Very well done.

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  12. Thank you all for the kind comments. The community of runners is stronger than ever.

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  13. Being a 1/2 marathon runner and having survived the 9/11 attacks, Monday's events have left me feeling very raw and disappointed in humanity. That is until I read your post - your words completely summed it up. This was beautifully written. Though we run on our own, it exemplifies that runners really are unified. Hope and love must trump fear and we must keep on running.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Lindsay.

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  14. Thanks for you words. I'm resolved to try harder this year in the Detroit Marathon to get a BQ time. I missed by 3 minutes in the 2012 Disney or I'd have been there this year and likely stopped before I could finish.

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    1. I had the same impulse. Though I haven't run a marathon in a couple of years, I signed up for one at the end of May so that I can join the runners at Boston in 2014.

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