16th April 2013

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I never claimed to like running. In fact, I’ve been quite vocal (around friends and family) of how much I hated it – uttered after I’d gone for a run that morning or just prior to a late evening run. When I injured my right foot two years ago, I had to stop running. I started other types of exercise, experimenting which made my foot ache worse than others. And I didn’t miss it all that much. I saw doctors, one doing an MRI then telling me I needed to wear orthopedic shoes (ha!), all for princely sums of money. But after making me wait for two hours one day, only to release me, I immediately left the doctor’s office, donned my running clothes and tennis shoes and ran. I ran through pain and heat and anger and came out the other side, sated in a way, but realizing how much I’d missed that hated exercise. I think of a Nike pitch scene from the film What Women Want, one I’ve always thought captured running well, that describes running as an act almost of defiance of the self. As Jen at the Well Read Fish said in her post this morning, “I don’t run to protest anything. I don’t run to put others down. I don’t run to oppress. I don’t run to prove a point.” Running is intensely personal, so personal that the motivations for running a marathon can range from obsession to need to ambition.

When I read CharlesPierce’s piece in Grantland, it struck me when he talks about how the runners in the Boston Marathon had “already traumatized their bodies over 26 hours” that there is an exquisite pain in running but that the pain is immediately followed with a joy so intense, some term it runner’s euphoria.

And that running yesterday was stymied. The pacing and release of the run turned to running in fear, in anguish, in desperation. Some ran to find family. Others ran to tear down the barriers keeping the crowd from the runners, running again to aid the wounded, the shocked, the dying. Still others ran to the hospital to donate blood, taxing their bodies even further and showing up in such large numbers that they were turned away.

I hate everything about these incidents of mass violence in our society. I hate the death and pain – literal and figurative – that they inflict. I hate the fear they instill in each of us, in ways large and small. But I also hate the products of that fear. Seeing the reports that a Saudi national, here on a student visa, was questioned, made me near ill, as I have taught Saudi nationals here on student visas, students so amazingly kind and wonderful that just last week, one brought me a box of 60 (!!) granola bars as thanks for editing a letter for her. I hate, too, our desire to deconstruct the use or avoidance of terms like terrorism, when in reality, people were terrorized yesterday, and though that may not fit the FBI’s definition of terrorism, it works for me. Today, the terror many felt has turned into horror as the shock subsides and the reality sets in.

I want a kinder world. Yes, there have been moments of bravery and love and generosity. Even Twitter was a more watchful, cautious tool than it has been in the midst of more recent crises, as The Signal Watch points out so well. But that we’re learning to adapt and move forward warily doesn’t stop my desire for kindness in its largest sense. The who, why, and how doesn’t matter nearly as much to me in this moment because the answers to those questions won’t change what has happened. And as Craig Ferguson said on his show last night, “I just can’t not think about it.” And I suspect I’ll try and fail to not think about it tonight as my feet pound the pavement.

  • In the age of Twitter and FB, what weighs heavily with me, besides the obvious (the sharing of misinformation, the inappropriate comments, the extreme graphic nature of the photos, etc) is that these victims fall “off” the timeline in just a matter of days. By this weekend, there won’t be much mention of the incident unless they find the guy who did this. Sad to me. That these lives are changed forever and yet they don’t even exists on a timeline for more than a couple of days.

  • Well said and thank you.

  • Cerece Murphy

    You started something. I’ve decided that tomorrow I am going to do my part to honor those who couldn’t finish the race. I’m not a runner, but tomorrow I am going to run like marathon runner. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Yvette

    I want a kinder world too, Jenn. These things are beyond comprehension by rational minds. What to make of this world of ours?

  • So well said.

  • renee

    I needed that. Thank you. xo

  • Laurie C

    I didn’t write a post about Marathon Day, but I’m glad you and others did. Keep on running!

  • So many things in this post that I want to respond to, but the thing that really jumped out at me that I didn’t see in any other posts, but which I definitely felt similarly about was the part about the Saudi national who was held for questioning. Like you, I felt especially ill when I read about this, mostly because from the sounds of what was reported, it didn’t seem as though it was even clear whether this was a domestic or foreign act of terrorism, and from what I read it sounded like this man was a suspect simply because of his country of origin, not for anything more tangible than that. Also, one report I read suggested that he had actually been running the marathon and was even injured in the blast! It’s hard to think of how something as tragic as this whole thing could get any more ugly, and yet, there it is.