-- Dick Beardsley, 1982 Boston Marathon “Duel in the Sun” competitor
Tomorrow morning I will rise at my usual, bleary-eyed hour. I’ll sip my morning coffee, check my email, study my Bible, then lace up my shoes for a run. At the moment, I’m skeptical that smiles or enthusiasm will show up. I hope a semblance of joy and a deep-seated faith will somehow carry me.
As the whole world knows by now, two bombs exploded today within yards of the finish line of the Boston Marathon. As of this writing, three people are dead and scores are injured, some critically. Newscasts are looping video continually, repeating that ugly moment when the first bomb detonated, sparking screams from some and snuffing them in others.
I’ve competed in two marathons in my 34-year running career, never managing to qualify for Boston. But I did attend that storied event once. It was in 1982, the most historic (until today) Boston Marathon ever. That year, world record holder Alberto Salazar—whom I’d interviewed just a few months earlier in one of my first assignments as a journalist—and fellow American runner Dick Beardsley battled across the 26-plus-mile course in unseasonable heat to finish within two seconds of each other.
I still have photos from that trip, and the memories are razor-sharp: steeping myself in the simmering eagerness at the starting line in Hopkinton, scaling a stately evergreen for a bird’s-eye view of the start (which earned me a blurry appearance in The Runner magazine), a desperate car drive to Newton to catch runners at the 10-mile mark, then a second ticket-tempting ride into Boston in time for the breathless finish.
What I remember most about the ’82 Boston was the pure bliss that permeated the event, flowing in and through every runner and every spectator. We were sharing something magical, something joyous. Maybe, just maybe, the tiniest glimpse of Heaven, or a world where politics, ideologies and selfish gain are surrendered for something greater.
After my accident in 2004, I gave up ever qualifying to run Boston. But I’ve never abandoned reconnecting with that feeling each April as I consumed marathon coverage.
So in the midst of my grief for the victims and families who suffered so much today, I grieve, albeit selfishly, for the loss of the innocence I embraced every year at this time.
And yet I will rise and run tomorrow. I will think upon the words of Dick Beardsley—a man who has faced incredible trials of his own, and yet manages to find the smile, the enthusiasm, the joy and the faith.
Perhaps the secret is not to await their appearance. The secret is to seek them out and embrace them, regardless of the ugliness, the inhuman acts of heartless monsters.
That may be what’s needed to summon the healing we all need in the wake of this horror.