Last night, I sat next to my husband, watching news from the Boston Marathon, and I turned to him and said “I think we should have kids.” To which he responded, “OK, but maybe we should wait a few months and make sure you still feel that way.” And we smiled.
I’m a marathon runner, with three finishes, my fastest time barely making my goal of “starts with a 4” at 4:59:58. And while I was born and raised in the New York metro, my parents and sister have all relocated to the Boston metro. My sister has been known to go watch the marathon, so yesterday felt too much like 9/11 for me, only combined with the added sorrow of knowing what it takes to complete one marathon, let alone run one to qualify for Boston, then train again to run “the” Boston Marathon.
When I ran the Marine Corps marathon in October of 2001, it went by the bombed out Pentagon four times. I was pretty focused on my training, and had trained to run a 4:30 pace. But as I ran past that building, past all those Marines, all those families, I couldn’t keep my focus. My college roommate ran a few blocks with me at mile 14 or 15 and she was ecstatic for me, because I was still on 4:30 pace, but at that moment I knew I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to race through this day. I wanted to savor it, to honor the race by loving it, not trying to beat it. So I dialed it back, and started to just run for pleasure. And this is what I learned: the slower I ran, the more fun people around me were having. There were costumes, and funny stories, and just more general antics. I don’t remember anything but the Pentagon from the first 15 miles, but I remember so much from the last ten miles, I will never regret my 5:29 finish.
That’s what hurts more today. The people at that 4+ hour pace are my people. They run for fun, they run for charity, they run for all the days they didn’t think they could run a marathon, and for the lifetime of saying that they did. It breaks my heart, the families that were made to suffer yesterday, the runners in the back of the pack that never got to finish, or got to finish, but won’t get their day in the sun as Boston Marathon finishers.
All I could do last night is think about 9/11, and how I got through that day and the weeks that followed. I remember sitting with my husband, in the seventh year of our marriage, and having that life-altering conversation: “I think we should have kids.” I’d been pretty much against having kids until then, but my take away from a day spent frantically searching for friends and loved ones from my island in Des Moines was that we might not have kids that would cure cancer or bring on world peace, but I was pretty sure we could raise good people, and maybe the world could use a few more good people.
My wish is that we all find the silver lining in this tragedy. I’m not asking you to go reverse your thinking on childbearing, although I think my two kids, age 5-3/4 and 10-1/2 are decent arguments for parenthood. Maybe volunteer in your community with at risk kids, or spend more time with friends (no, Facebook chat does not count). Or you could send something to Boston Children’s Hospital from their wish list. Or go running with friends (there’s a local run in honor of Boston getting organized, with info here). At any rate, I just wanted to say, Boston, we’ve had our differences, but we are with you today.