As A Runner

April 16, 2013

Boston Marathon Finish Line

As a runner, I’ve had to deal with many things involving injury and even death over the years.

When I was in Japan, I had to be careful to remember to carry my ID with me AT ALL TIMES. When I was running at night through the rice fields, I had to watch out for “gaijin traps”: manmade holes in the sidewalk, easily big enough to let a person fall through, designed to help irrigation. Though I never heard of any runners making that mistake, I did have a friend of a friend who (quite drunk), crashed his bicycle into one and sustained some pretty serious injuries.

Even before then, I was just as vulnerable on the streets of America. In 2004, while running in the rain, a car made a questionably illegal left turn and took both sets of tires right over my legs. After more than a year of recovery and training, I ran the Austin Freescale Marathon in 3:00:57.

The spread of barefoot running brought a whole new world of possibilities to my attention. And a whole new way to be injured. I’ve had two stress fractures from doing TMTS (too much too soon) and lifting heavy loads while wearing my Vibram Fivefingers.

Footwear alone isn’t reckless as my behavior, my training. Trying to race across crowded intersections before lights turn green and nearly getting slammed by a motorcycle darting between cars. Believing myself to be invulnerable to “normal people problems” like good nutrition and proper cool downs. My chest was throbbing so irregularly one night I was considering calling the hospital… I attributed it to going so strong on an 8-mile run that morning and then being nothing but a sloth and glutton the rest of the day.

The point is, runners take risks. Marathon runners doubly so. We’re pushing our bodies to the limits of what we think they can handle (often to discover they can do more with time and effort). But even going at a steady pace and doing everything right, injuries happen. Accidents occur.

The top of Heartbreak was uneventful. I reached the top; that’s all. Nothing spectacular. I must admit it probably drained my legs more than I was consciously aware. After 22, my left quad started shaking, hurting, straining, buckling is more like it. I don’t know why I kept going. “Gotta keep breathing, stay alive…” may have floated through my head at one point.
– My Boston Marathon story

Like everyone else in the country, I’ve been glued to the Internet to learn the latest on the Boston Marathon explosions. We know the how and where. We need the who and why.

I can’t offer answers or a firsthand account. I can only say that I was completely devastated when those images and videos started pouring in. Boston was the best race I’ve ever run. Not because of my performance. Because the course leading to the city is beautiful, the spectators the most enthusiastic I’ve encountered, the entire population seemingly rallied behind runners for that one Monday. Those last 2-3 miles, crossing the water and entering Copley Square is nothing but a giant wall of people cheering you on (they’re pretty consistent before then, too, but even more so in the final stretch).

So I offer my best wishes to the families of the victims and those injured in these explosions, and know that Boston will bounce back, and the marathon will endure.

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