I used to be a runner.
Not much of a runner, but a runner, just the same. Due to a bad back and asthma, I was a plodder, happily keeping pace with the other five and six-hour runners as we crossed the marathon finish line with red faces and exhausted bodies, despite the warnings from well-intentioned friends who thought my back would be better off if I handed out orange slices and paper cups of water on the side lines like other sensible people.
I didn’t listen.
There is something life-affirming about creating a goal that seems impossible, chunking off those baby action steps, literally ONE STEP at a time, and working your way up until you have mastered the ability to do something you never DREAMED you were capable of doing.
When I crossed the finish line, held that cold hard medal in my hand, put that proof of my victory around my neck- I said to myself, out loud, “If I can run a marathon, I can do ANYTHING.” And I believed it too.
That conviction has carried me through many a difficult moment where the only thing that got me through was sheer grit and faith.
I have gumption. I have Commitment. I have perseverance. When I put my mind to something…I Am UNSTOPPABLE. I have SPIRIT.
I proved it to myself, and I have the medal to remind me when I forget. When those scary, dark voices try to whisper in my ear, I tell them to shut up. Because if I can run a marathon, I can do ANYTHING.
Then a few years ago, a bicycle injury mangled my ankle and took out not only my ability to run, but for a long while, my ability to walk without a limp and a hobble. I had to turn that focus not on running, but on walking. I’m fine now, but had never strapped on the running shoes again.
Until Boston happened this week.
Monday was my birthday. April 15th is a historically bad day to have a birthday to begin with. It’s not enough to share it with Tax Day, but it is also the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and the death of Abraham Lincoln. Now we will forever link it with this infamous Boston Marathon as well. There are not enough words to express both my sadness and anger at the kind of evil that would do such a thing. I won’t go into any political or conjectural debate about who could have done it, because in the end it comes down to the same core. Evil. Evil has tried to block out the light, has struck out against goodness and created loss, devastation and misery.
Tuesday morning when I woke up, my heavy heart had been replaced by anger and a sense of rising up to fight back and I thought, “Damn those asswipe Boston Bombers, they aren’t going to stop the human spirit. I’m going to run for Boston.”
Except here in the Midwest it has been raining— I think, but am not sure— for forty days and forty nights. To start running now, I would be running in lakes and rivers on the sidewalks.
Not to be deterred, my sister came over, and for a birthday treat took me as a guest to her health club, which has an indoor cushioned track. I dusted off my running shoes, strapped on my heart rate monitor and gingerly…walked and ran…slowly….and walked some more, and then ran, the first time I have ran since my ankle accident….ONE MILE for Boston.
F-YOU Boston ASSWIPE—Whoever you are. I ran for Boston because I can, and you can’t stop us. You will NEVER stop us.
It wasn’t much. It wasn’t anything really, not compared to the heroes and first-responders and countless generous people who gave blood and food and money and their homes and their hearts and everything they had in Boston and elsewhere to help in a time of crisis. But is was a message from my heart and my spirit to Boston, and to its people and to all of us, that as long as we believe in ourselves, we can do anything. Because we have SPIRIT.
WE will get back up, dust ourselves off, bond together, rise again as a nation, no matter how many times haters, terrorists, jerks and crazies try to blow us up, shoot us, or tear us apart. We will love, we will pull together, we will rebuild, we will HEAL.
We will run if we have to. One step at a time if we have to. You can’t keep us down. We will run for those who have fallen, we will walk, we will crawl if we have to. Because we are resilient.
We are the Human Spirit.