Can't Break the American Spirit

Boston Marathon Memorial

On April 15, 2013, life in America changed forever. Again. While our country has lived through civilians as targets who were simply going to work for the day, or taking a flight across the country, April 15th was the first day when Americans were the target of a terrorist attack when simply going out for a run. When terrorists chose the Boston Marathon as a target for their dastardly deeds, they truly turned the page in our historic battle with terrorism from having symbols of capitalism and all things American in their sights, to simply individuals who were enjoying what was for many a once in a lifetime experience of running a race they not only trained for, but had to qualify for in advance to participate.

It was also a unique day in history, because participants in the Boston Marathon come from all around the nation; it was not a “local” event, but more a national and international event. Which meant the effect of the bombing was felt in far more personal ways for runners, family members, and friends across the country who knew someone in the event.

I was one of those people who after the immediate shock and horror of what had happened after hearing about the event and seeing it on TV, sensed a bit of panic. Was someone that I knew in the race today? Silly question really. As a member and sponsor of Pacesetters of the Fox Valley and as an athletic trainer and physical therapist in northeast Wisconsin for many years, I certainly had many friends who definitely could have been at the event. However, I was a bit more panicked when I realized that my sister-in-law, or one of her immediate family members who happen to live out east easily could have been running Boston this year. I racked my brain to try to remember our last phone conversation. No, I didn’t remember her saying she was going to Boston this year. It seemed so long ago, though, and in all of our busy life conversation, would we even have talked about that event so far in the future? Plus, if there’s one thing my sister-in-law and her family members who run are, it’s spontaneous. Did a space open up, did she qualify, would she jump in to run with someone else?

What non-runners probably don’t know or realize, it’s really hard to get into the Boston Marathon, even if you are an experienced marathoner. You have to have some pretty great times at a marathon within a specific timeframe to qualify to even have the opportunity to run the race. I vividly remember pacing my sister-in-law in the last 6 miles of the Green Bay Marathon many years ago as she was pushing to cut her time by just a few minutes to qualify for the Boston. I have fond memories of talking, laughing, and cajoling her to spur her on to make her goal in those most difficult final 6 miles of the race. And her time? Just missed the qualifying time by a minute or two. That was it.

After several years of steadily improving her marathon time, my sister-in-law Maggie did qualify for the Boston Marathon, and brought her whole family to cheer her on when she ran. Thankfully, that was several years ago. After frantically checking her Facebook page this year, I didn’t see any mention of going to Boston this year. I wasn’t fully convinced however, until she posted how saddened she was for all of the runners and I noted her post was from the security of her hometown in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

A day later, she posted the picture of her family just after she finished the Boston Marathon from several years ago. After watching all of the media coverage, I could see in her family picture the same type of people who had been most affected at the finish line- spectators, family members, and friends of the runners. People of all ages, from kids to older adults, there to support their loved ones, making memories that would last a lifetime. As I stared at the picture of my sister-in-law, my brother, my nephews, and my niece, along with many extended family members, I was easily seeing the faces of the kids and young adults who had died or had limbs amputated, lives altered forever due to a meaningless hatred of all that is America.

Yes, life has changed in America. I don’t know about you, but I still think about those runners and that finish line when I go out for a run, hike, or walk with my family. Nothing in life is guaranteed. Not even going for a run. But no one is more determined to run, especially in the 2014 Boston Marathon, than American runners. Silly terrorists, who think that a few little bombs will keep a marathoner from competing in and completing their race?! Terrorists will never understand the willpower and determination of marathon runners with their eye on the prize, who will do anything to finish their race. That is the best lesson we are reminded of even with the sad events at the Boston Marathon - nothing can or ever will break the American spirit. And we can all thank God for that!

Running on…

Jill Murphy
Owner/Physical Therapist
MotionWorks Physical Therapy