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OPINION - Boston: Ruining the runners' high

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)   I’ve let a few days pass since the Boston Marathon bombing before writing about it.

I feel sorry for the runners.

Consider the dedication and training of that goes into running a marathon. Competitive runners will train for a year or more. And you don’t simply send in a registration form and then suit up to run in the Boston Marathon. You need to compete in other timed races, submit your results, and hope that you’re picked by the organizers as one of the entrants. They travel cross-country and arrange their lodging at their own expense. Stepping onto the course and hearing the starter’s gun is the tremendous personal achievement. Crossing the finish line 26-miles is the ultimate runner’s high.

The bomber – whoever they are – stole those achievements away from the athletes. There were hundreds of runners who didn’t get to finish the race. For others who'd already crossed the finish line, those feelings of elation were transformed to horror in an instant.

Some will decide not to try again… that the work leading up to the race was too much to have it turn out the way it did. Others will find they don’t enjoy competitive running any more – having to wonder if every trash can or spectator is the next bomb-in-waiting. And for many the feelings surrounding their running will be changed forever. (And running is as much an emotional pursuit as it is physical… it’s your mind that pushes your body to go further.) Once something is no longer enjoyable, we eventually give it up.

I remember the days after the 9-11 attacks in New York City. I lived in the suburbs then.

I had Broadway tickets that I bought months earlier. It was a play I was looking forward to seeing. The performance was a few weeks after the attack, at a time when, slowly, things were returning to ‘normal’. My wife didn’t want to go. To her the experience of a night-on-the-town in New York City was changed forever. I made all the arguments about letting the terrorists win if we don’t go back to doing the things we enjoyed doing. But what if we don’t enjoy them any more? Remember, there used to be people who enjoyed flying on an airplane. Not any more.

The act of buying a ticket is not the same as training for a marathon. The runner has more skin in the game. I’m sure there will be many, many people who will run in next year’s Boston Marathon. For some it will be an act of defiance, showing that we are not defeated. But even for them, it will be different. Although I hate to admit it, these attacks do change us.

Chris Conley