I think it’s safe to say that tonight, as a runner and as an American, I am grieving. I prayed today. I mourned today. I ran today.
This morning started in a flurry of activity. My friend Katie and I are both runners–she is in training for her Boston Qualifier as we speak, and I am going with her to Wisconsin to support that quest. We are also both homeschooling our kids. Today we planned special activities that centered on Boston and the marathon to
educate our kids justify getting together to watch Boston. She read aloud the story of Phidippides and showed the children Greece and Persia on a map. I re-enacted the story of the Tortoise and the Hare with puppets and we talked about pacing and focus. We showed them Boston, talked about Massachusetts and it’s State Bird, the chickadee. It was quite sweet, and included breaks to watch the elite women’s race, and some of the men’s.
I was long gone from Katie’s house by the time the explosions happened. The explosions that took lives, that took limbs, and that have changed running in America. I posted on Twitter that it was the day ‘someone broke running.’ And I do believe that, in a way, running has been broken. Now, don’t get me wrong–of course it has not diminished the spirit of runners. If a marathoner doesn’t overcome adversity by nature, the journey of 26.2 will teach them to overcome it. Also, it has not been broken beyond repair. We are too tough for that.
But, for my young children and yours, running races will not be the same experience that it has been for us. Even cheering for races will be different, from this point on. While I expect running to be even more important to us, I also expect heightened security, higher race fees to cover the security, and perhaps fewer spectators. The saddest prospect of all: fewer kids watching the drama and glory of the finish line. One of the dead was 8 years old. Eight. Perhaps a second-grader, a gap-toothed new reader. Maybe a kid looking forward to running a 5k soon with his mom or dad. There are far too many others who were rushed to Boston Children’s Hospital. Those kids were presumably there to cheer on a parent, in a race that is far too big of a deal for them to really comprehend.
My children have been that child.
My children want to be those runners, crossing the finish line in victory after a hard road to get there.
My children are Boston, but I don’t want them to know.
“Do the girls know?” a friend texted me today.
No! No! A thousand times no! These children already voice their concerns for us in their prayers before we run a race–I don’t know why they worry, but they do. Thankfully, mine aren’t around other kids who will talk about it with furrowed brows Tuesday, or who will be parroting something their parent said about the tragedy in a moment of sadness and confusion. And I will support their blissful ignorance for as long as I can. I hope that you are in a position to guard the innocence of your children, too.
Let us all be mindful of when and how we talk about this tragedy around our kids. Obviously there are many who already know, or who will find out about Boston tomorrow. I pray you find words to explain it to their child-minds. But if you don’t have to… Don’t. Our little ones simply don’t need the burden of worrying about a bomb going off in a spot where they are holding the signs they have made, or about an explosion in the spot where Mommy and Daddy are running.
My children are currently sleeping peacefully in the next room. Their associations with the 117th Boston Marathon are still of us screaming like crazy for Shalane Flanagan in the final moments of the women’s race. Of giggling at my tortoise puppet doing a happy dance at his finish line. Of talking about how Miss Katie might be there next year (which I still hope she will. I feel confident there will be no safer place than Boston on Patriot’s Day 2014).
Tomorrow I will wear a race shirt. I will run with Katie. I will continue to process what the events in Boston today mean for all of us.
In the future, when I feel anxious at being jostled at a start line, or am in the crowds waiting to see my husband lope around a corner, or am approaching a major-city-race finish line, I will remember the glee-filled moments of our morning together with our children. I will quiet my fears and remember the enduring spirit of runners, of kids, of EMS workers who head toward danger instead of away from it.
I will not be scared, because I refuse to let terrorists win. But my children will not be scared, because they will not know. Not now, and hopefully not for a long, long time. If I need to pray three times as much for the victims, I will, but my children will not know.