For the first 40 years of my life, I was the antithesis of an athlete. Even while in the Air Force, I exercised just enough to pass the physical fitness tests, but never anything more.
My sparse physical activity came more from a lack of skill than it did interest. I have no hand-eye coordination, I am not fast, and was always the last kid picked as teams divided on the playground.
I got away with this limited activity for 40 years. But as my metabolism slowed and age crept upward, my waistline expanded. In fact, the matriarch of a church I served threatened to take up a collection to buy me a girdle.
So, in 2008 I began running. First around the block, then a 5k, a 10k, and half marathon. In the next few years I ran a few marathons and even an ultra. While I still wouldn’t call myself an athlete, I do frequent a running store called “Athletes Edge,” which is much closer than I ever expected to get.
Running not only reduced my waistline, it became part of my identity; a time I can disconnect from responsibilities and reconnect with God, nature, and myself.
As a runner, Boston is the ideal. The place where it all began. This morning as I practiced my annual ritual of sitting on the couch and watching the Boston marathon, the announcer said that before Boston the longest competitive race in the US was three miles (what a simpler time!).
Boston is not only the oldest, longest running marathon, it is the dream. One can only get to the starting line of Boston by qualifying with a fast race time. In my four marathons, I have not been in the same ballpark as those qualifying times.
And yet, as I watched the race this morning I dreamt of that ideal. I emailed Coach Katie and said someday I want to be there. This morning Boston seemed to be the Promised Land to strive toward. Even if I only made it to Mt Nebo, Boston was the aspiration.
Then a pair of explosions tore apart lives and shook the world.
When the boys came home from school, they found me in front of the computer with tears running down my face, struggling to verbalize what had happened.
It is moments like this that break our routine and cause us to question who we really are.
For me, as a runner, Boston is not simply an elusive dream of a running time I might not reach. Boston is the symbol of all the greatness I yearn to achieve. Even if I never get there, it is the motivation to live into my full potential.
Today, that symbol was violently shattered in a most horrific way.
Tomorrow brings with it a question of response. Who will we be in a world where the identity we attach to the name Boston is forever changed?
For me, today’s events are a reminder to fully embrace the fleeting gifts of life. Not only will I continue to run with perseverance towards that distant starting line, but I will strive to be the husband, father, brother, son, friend, and pastor God has created me to be.