A runner-law student’s Boston Marathon experience

I am a runner. Boston is my home.

I started running seriously last fall hoping that it would help me put the pieces of my broken heart back together. At the time, I felt it was the only way to gain some control back in my life. The road was there and it was all mine. It was my choice whether I ran. It was up to me. And so I hit the road almost daily. And slowly my heart healed and I became addicted. I only ran outside (I ran through the winter and only hit a treadmill once while I was away at a hotel) and ended up loving running in the cold and in the snow. Running made me stronger and taught me that I can get through life, even when it hurts. Running lead me through my law school finals, a constant reminder that the effort I put in, I would gain back in ways I could not even imagine at the time. Running brought me new friends. When I didn’t know what to do, I ran. And even if I didn’t have an answer at the end of the run (which rarely happened), I knew things would be OK.

This was my first winter running.

I was not at the marathon when the bombs went off. I had volunteered with KTTape at the Boston Marathon Expo most of the weekend, but I decided not to head into Boston because I wanted to catch up on school work.

At the 2013 Boston Marathon Expo, volunteering at the KTTape Booth
I was glued to the TV all morning watching the elites. Later, in a state of shock, I woke from a nap to see the events on TV. I thought I was dreaming. Then I looked at my phone and saw it was exploding (no pun intended) with texts and calls and Facebook posts. I started to realize what happened but it didn’t make sense. I was confused and sad and angry. And part of me felt like I should be there, with my people, with my runners and Bostonians and supporters and volunteers. I should be there helping, sharing the pain in person. But I was only able to send my thoughts from a distance and online. I was sad and confused and angry and heartbroken, but most of all, I felt helpless.

Many of us are lucky to be alive and physically intact and to have escaped the bombing. But our hearts and souls cannot escape what happened. 

Tuesday night, I dedicated my run to Boston. I wore the Runners United to Remember bib that was created by Run Junkees and VO2 the Max to honor and remember the 2013 Boston Marathon victims. Even though I felt somber, I was never so proud to be a Boston runner as I was at that moment. 

Photo 1
I got the purple shirt at the expo. The shirt on the left is from the annual Tufts 10K for Women, held in Boston, along with my Runners United to Remember bib. Tuesday was “wear your run shirt” day to honor the events at the marathon.

Wednesday, I finally left my apartment to head to school. I ran there, 3 miles each way, for a meeting. I usually run to class on Wednesdays. Again, just like the night before, I proudly wore the Runners United to Remember bib. It was nice to get some knowing nods and smiles from strangers, proof of the unspoken respect that ties people together in extreme circumstances.  
Photo 2

I was almost at school when I had to stop at a light. I noticed a guy walking up next to me. He had a marathon jacket on. 
And he was wearing his medal.
I don’t usually talk to strangers but in this case it was all I could do not to just hug him. Instead of acting like a creeper, I said hello and asked him if he ran the marathon – clearly, a stupid question since he had a medal. But either he didn’t notice or humored me anyway and said yes.
His name is Dan Curtin from Marshfield, MA. He is 26. He ran for Dana Farber in memory of his mother, Judith Curtin, who died in 2004 from cancer. This was his first marathon.
During the marathon, Dan had been stopped at Comm Ave about to turn onto Mass Ave. He did not have anyone waiting for him at the finish line – they had already cheered him on on Comm Ave.
Dan picked up his medal Wednesday.
As I asked him the same questions about where he was and how he was doing and what he thought and all the other questions he had probably already answered 100 times, I had to hold back my tears. I am pretty sure a few squeezed out, but I wanted to be strong. Strong for Dan, who until that moment was a stranger to me. 

Photo 4
My fellow runner and new friend, Dan and I. 

I am not sure but I think maybe I needed Dan in that moment more than he needed me. But that’s what the bond of running (and the bond of being from Boston) brings. It is a bond that is unspoken because it needs no words and no reason. It is a bond of mutual respect, of just knowing we are there to support each other. The community of runners I have found online (and in person) have proven to be some of the strongest people I have ever known.

I made another new friend because of this. I met Becca Obergefell online Tuesday. Turns out I went to high school [in Ohio] with her sister in law, and I saw that that my classmate had posted a link to Becca’s #runforboston movement on her Facebook page. In her #runforboston movement, Becca created a form for runners to “run for boston” and log their miles, and share with other runner’s why they are running for Boston. It has gone viral on a global level and I am honored and proud not only to be a part of it, but to [kind of] know the person who started it. There is also a Facebook page called Run for Boston, uniting runners all over the globe to run on April 17.

Until now, I really had no desire to run a full marathon. I have been wanting to do a half, but really no interest in anything more. After this year, I am determined to run Boston in 2014. Studying for the bar this summer is the perfect time to also focus on the beginning steps of training.

I want to run because I can, because that’s what runners do. I want to run for those who won’t be able to run again. There are no excuses. I am lucky to have knees to scream at me in pain. I will keep running until I can’t.

Photo 3
I graduate in a few weeks and take the Bar at the end of July. Running has been instrumental in how I have approached my studies and life by training myself to keep going, no matter how bad or difficult things seem.

Runners endure pain and keep running. Runners are stubborn and strong and keep running, even when they don’t want to or they think they can’t.  Runners run for other people who can’t. Runners run for themselves, for their sanity, to get through life. Runners inspire each other. Runners support and motivate and cheer for each other. Runners are strong and runners will keep running no matter what. Runners breed themselves to push through hard times. This is running and this is life. This will not break Boston. This will not break runners.

I am a runner, BostonStrong and proud.


To log your miles and #runforboston, visit Becca Obergefell’s form.

To donate to the people who were most affected by the events at the 2013 Boston Marathon, go to  www.onefundboston.org.
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