Running a marathon is exhausting.
For the loved one of the runner.
Like, for a mom, for instance.
Six years ago my daughter trained for the Boston marathon. I watched her lose weight week by week as she increased her training miles. Her cheeks deepened in her face, her color reddened, matching her strawberry blonde hair. Her legs grew tauter and, yes, she even smiled more.
But I worried. How normal is it to get up at 4 a.m. and run for an hour in the dark and cold before the day begins? How safe is it to run after work at 5 p.m., in the New England dark cold of December and January, when the snow is hard and icy and the street lights dimmed by the freezing temperatures?
Oh yes, I worried like only a mother can.
But my daughter did not falter nor deter from her goal. She holds a deep stream of stubbornness within her – can’t for the life of me figure out where she got it.
I was proud of her, yet still cautious. By the last few weeks before Patriot’s Day – Marathon Day – her body was revolting, trembling in times of stillness. Her roommate had to rush her to the E.R. one night because she’d become too dehydrated.
But, there I stood on that Patriot’s Day, with my mom, a few yards from the finishing line on Boylston, ready to cheer our daughter/granddaughter four hours after she’d begun to run miles away from center city, early in the morning, with the thousands of other determined, strong, good-hearted men and women from around the world.
On Monday, I thought of that determination and resolve as I watched the horrifying scenes scrolled across our TV screens.
What has some wicked warped human being tried to pull asunder?
That day, six years ago, when I had cheered my daughter on to the end of her arduous run, I was lifted up myself. The thousands of people surrounding my mom and me were cheering too – not just for their loved ones, but for everyone who had placed their efforts and pains and promises right before us, with cramped legs, grimaced faces, but smiles wider than the world.
My soul was lifted that day – oh yes, as were all the souls who watched the miracle of the marathon. Even though we hadn’t pushed and pulled our bodies to their limits, we marveled and celebrated those who had. This celebration made us all one in celebrating the human spirit.
We Americans are known for our spirit – and watching the news on Monday, I realized why. Because we’re FREE. And in freedom, comes the ability to push and pull each other in our beliefs and in our struggles. Because we’re free, we’re open to celebrating the heritages and struggles and beliefs of others.
Because we’re free, we cheer on those who show an Olympian might to run 26.2 miles. And because we’re free, we cry with happiness as we watch those runners cross the finish line.
Because we’re free, no terror will stop our spirit. The spirit only thrives as it is strengthened.
So I salute those who train and run a marathon.
I salute those of us who cheer and wave and love all those who show us their marathon spirit.
A spirit that will never be pulled asunder.
American flags at the Boston Garden.