Some of my favorite pictures are with family, friends, running partners, either as we crossed the finish line, or embraced thereafter.
Among the best? Raising my left arm, hands locked with my close friend, Andrew, as we crossed the finish of the Wisconsin Marathon, our first such race. Shortly thereafter, a photographer captured an image of me embracing my exhausted wife.
My ankles were bleeding. My body was shot. This is why, the more I peruse the images from Boston on Monday, the more optimistic I feel about the world my two daughters will enter in a few months.
That yellow and blue finish line on Boylston Street is every runner’s holy grail, marking not only the conclusion of the most heralded 26.2-mile race. It is the destination of a personal journey, the reward for many other races run, blood, sweat and tears sacrificed in order to accomplish something great.
Above that line Monday afternoon, a clock hung from a wire. As the explosions shook the world we live in, the official timer read 4:10.45.
That time is the approximate median, about the time an average runner like me would approach the finish line.
But average gave way to superhuman. The images show runners, their bodies invariably shot and unpredictably literally shaken to the core, turning and running toward smoke, most likely unaware of whose biggest fans were among the spectators.
Most certainly, they were unaware of what other threats loomed.
As the second bomb went off, more runners and volunteers became “helpers,” as Fred Rogers so famously referred to them. Out of the developing nightmare emerged good people’s very best.
I can’t say I would have run back into the carnage. But I’d like to believe I would have joined those who tacked another mile and ran to Mass General Hospital to donate blood.
But the same way that I can only wonder what it was like to be meters away from completing a dream, only to feel the earth shaken by an unthinkable attack, I can only wonder how I would have responded to that dream abruptly turning into my worst nightmare.
In reality, Monday afternoon my wife and I were visiting family and friends, sharing ultrasound images, when we heard. As I sent text messages to check on those I cherish, myriad thoughts ran through my mind.
The one that made my stomach turn the most was that whatever – not whomever – planned this knew there would be dozens and dozens of photographers in position to document it.
What it didn’t account for was the indomitable human spirit.
This has been extremely hard to endure. And it’s unfortunate that it takes events like these to evoke our best as a human league. But I will cling to my Boston friends’ prose, photos and videos over the next several weeks and celebrate through them as they emerge stronger and closer than they were before.
I will celebrate the inevitable victory of good vicariously through them. But I will also do some things to honor those we’ve lost.
I will run a mile for each of the good guys we lost, each day this week. Then I will run the Boston Marathon. Maybe in 2015. Maybe in 2020.
No matter when, I will run it. Because that is what we do as runners, as Americans, but more than anything, as the good that far outweighs the evil.
No matter what obstacles evil places, we will not be deterred. And we will raise our arms in triumph.