Freedom to Run – Boston Marathon Bombs Hit America’s Heart

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in We...

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in Wellesley, just after the halfway mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a five-year-old, I ran my first race at my family’s boys’ summer camp on a winding dirt road lined by a quiet green forest. My heart pounded in my temples, dust clogged my throat, and I inhaled the sweet aroma of swamp water as my skinny legs floated toward the finish line. At the recognition banquet, Grandma handed me a pink ribbon with OUTSTANDING typed in capital letters. I pressed it to my heart. I ran many more races, winning other ribbons, but the thrill of that first race never left me.

As a child, I outran the neighbor boys in kick the can, capture the flag, and tackle the man with the ball. In adolescence, I ran through the emotional upheaval of hormonal rages, unrequited loves and shattered friendships. In college, I raced through setbacks, devastating losses and future uncertainties. After graduation, I jogged down the wide boulevards of Washington DC, the cobblestone streets of Paris, and the winding alleyways of Marburg lined with half-gabled houses dating from the 15th century.

Running represented freedom. Like many other athletes worldwide, I dreamed of one day running in the Boston Marathon.

This year’s Boston Marathon, synonymous with the spirit of the American people, was held on Patriots Day at the historical city that represents the democratic values we hold so dear. When I first saw bombs explode on TV, I gasped for air as if my lung had been punctured. Immediately, I wondered, where’s Tina; my best friend – a runner- repatriated back to Boston. Twelve years earlier, we squeezed hands for support in Switzerland as we watched the Twin Towers disintegrate on September 11, 2001 setting the stage for a new era of terrorism.

Like everyone else, as the newsreel in Boston unfolded, I thought first of my friend, and her family. Even after I found out that she was all right, the anxiety didn’t subside. Instead it rippled out in waves, while I went through the motions of my day teaching multi-cultured, multi-colored students in Switzerland’s tranquil countryside. I kept replaying the scenes of pandemonium, knowing that today someone’s life was shattered. Forever. Someone lost a leg. Someone lost a life partner. Someone lost an eight-year-old son.

Running is the great equalizer: anyone at any age can run anywhere. Out the door. Into the street. Across the fields. Over the hills. Through the woods. You don’t need to rent a court, pay club fees, own special gear or earn a specific income.

Air is free. Breath. Oxygen in, carbon dioxide out. Runner’s high. The benefits are immediate… until a bomb strikes the Boston Marathon on an American holiday reminding us that our streets, and fields, and hills, and woods are not safe.

Robert Cheruiyot in 2006 Boston Marathon as he...

Robert Cheruiyot in 2006 Boston Marathon as he passes through Wellesley Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the week, as the news unfolded of the manhunt for the perpetrators, I watched in horror a city under siege in lock-down. Until the capture of the second brother, soldiers patrolled sleepy suburban streets; snipers perched on the rooftops and armed tanks rolled through the trendy neighborhoods of Watertown and Cambridge.

Though my running days are long gone, as I walked to my international school where I encounter a hundred different nationalities on a daily basis, I wondered what has gone wrong? Why can’t we get along?

Running, freedom, bombs, all blur into a nightmare of disbelief, replaced by uncertainty, anxiety, fear.

We will always run free!



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  1. Great post, as usual. Running symbolizes freedom, something the American people will never give up. We will always prevail. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.

    I went to college a few miles away from Watertown (Newton/Chestnut Hill) and my heart was with Boston. On 9/11 we live 40 minutes away from NYC, my brother was in Manhattan. Our town lost many friends and neighbors; we were devastated. But we prevailed.

    We will never give in to hatred, bigotry or terror.

    Thank you for this wonderful post.

    • Oh Cathy, I am so sorry for all the losses in your community. You must always feel a sense of trepidation every time you step out the door, but like you said so eloquently the American people will never give in to hatred, bigotry or terror. I hope that even though I have been an x-pat for decades, I still radiate the American spirit.

  2. Dear Pat, what a beautiful reminder of the freedoms we hold dear. There will always be evil in the world, but we will prevail. Thank you for this excellent post.

  3. As of this moment, one of the terrorists is dead and one in custody. I am eager to understand what made these two young men feel that this course of action made sense. My condolences to the families.

    • Yes, may I echo that statement, my sympathy goes out to all the families. Like you, I wondered what could be going through these young men’s minds and will we ever be able to understand.

  4. Wonderful post, Pat! Sadly, there will always be evil. Evil people who do evil things, sicknesses, poverty, and death. The Good News is that eventually, Good will overcome evil! We know the outcome — though sometimes it’s hard waiting for Good to triumph. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have suffered the unthinkable.

  5. Sis,
    “Why can’t we get along?” seems to be the 100 million dollar question.
    Thanks for putting into words what so many of us are thinking.
    I will RUN today with more perserverence, power and PRAYER!
    Te amo!

  6. Thanks Pat, for this beautiful write up. It really struck me and I quite agreed with the gentleman who was interviewed on the radio right after the neighbors of Watertown came out into the streets once the lock-down was over. He was asked if he felt relieved since the second suspect was captured. He answered that he felt sad- sad for the choices these young men made that led to such horrific acts. Sad for everyone involved.
    Keep praying everyone – for the victims, for tolerance, for understanding, and for peace.

    • I too shared the overwhelming feeling of sadness. What leads men into such destructive acts of despair? In the face of such madness, we must seek tolerance, understanding, and peace. Well said, Tina.

  7. Amazing reflection on the events of this past week. Along with the disbelief and horror at what happened in Boston, I think sadness is my overriding emotion. Sadness that somewhere in the lives of these two young men something has gone awry. Sadness that innocents had to die. Sadness that lives, a city, a community has been changed forever, not because it wanted to change but because someone else changed it with evil and violence. But to rid ourselves of the sadness, the disbelief and the horror of these incidences — Boston, Newtown, Columbine, Tuscon, and more — we must rise up and work against something we do not understand and that is the ability to take what is not yours. Thanks for taking the time to write what the rest of us are likely thinking and feeling.

    • Sherrey, I think you are right. The only way to overcome our sadness is to rise up and stand together to help our families, communities and nations heal.

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