Five years ago, I stood in a crowd on the sidewalk in Brookline, Massachusetts’ Washington Square, which was not far from my home at the time. We were watching the Boston Marathon, and our two oldest children (the third was on the way) were handing out orange slices to the athletes at the Boston Marathon. Pride filled me as I saw the joy on their young faces when an athlete would grab a slice from them and keep running.
Five years later, I experienced the shock we all did: “What? A Bomb? Where? At the Boston Marathon?” How could this be?”
I ran to the computer for confirmation. Shocked, I could hardly grasp the reality of this news. As an endurance athlete, I felt confused. “How could this happen at a race? Race day is sacred!” Confused and lacking clarity, my mind raced with thoughts and feelings that I quickly shoved down and coated with a thin layer of denial. “A bomb at a race” does not fit into my mental framework of what race day is all about. Athletes prepare heavily, devote endless training hours, make huge sacrifices to prepare their bodies, minds and spirit to achieve their goals. Every race presents a new challenge to overcome. The Boston Marathon is that challenge for athletes, the biggest hurdle, most difficult marathon race to achieve the finish line.
It was mystifying, frustrating and unimaginable to me that this could occur at an endurance event. People, athletes, spectators come to the Boston Marathon to witness and celebrate health, life, and to either witness or experience stretching past perceived limitations to achieve a dream come true. People watch and participate to take part in the sensation of awe at what human beings are capable of. It is captivating and gripping to witness the speed power strength and power of the runners. This sense of awe unites us, fills us with a sense of wonder and possibilities. People will be moved to a sense of ‘awe’ by nature, art, music and observing the accomplishments of others. It’s this sense that you’ve encounter something large, vast, expansive and need to adjust your thinking to accommodate the experience.
Indeed, a bomb during the Boston Marathon created ‘awe’ at what human beings are capable of, but not the type that people go to celebrate on race day. We are collectively shocked, disappointed, horrified rather than uplifted, inspired and motivated.
When this type of tragedy occurs, people question many things in an attempt to make sense of such a terrible act of violence towards innocent people. And not just innocent people, but people gathered together in our community to celebrate life, health, fitness, and the achievement of a peoples aspirations. We are there to witness the achievement of others, or to participate in our own dream come true not to have our safety threatened and our worldview of humanity shaken.
Slowly, layers of shock fell away and I allow the reality of the event to penetrate my worldview. Nearly a week later, I hurried to the computer, as though the event just occurred, to email my friends in Boston about their safety. How could it have taken me nearly a week to ask if they were okay? Truly, I was in shock mixed with a layer of denial as I attempted to process how something as sacred as race day could be penetrated by such an atrocity.
Finally, I am defrosting the layers of shock and am able to feel anger, horror, sadness, grief, fear, frustration mixed with confusion, as I integrate my meanings about the world and humanity with this experience. Many people must experiencing similar feelings about the bombing.
The media is promoting America as stronger and tougher than before 9/11, and we are! However, this act shakes us right to the core; especially those of us that race on a regular basis for recreation, fitness, fun, health, friendship, self pride, recognition, and other reasons. An occurrence such as this brings us to evaluate many aspects of humanity, and our meanings of life and the role sports plays in our lives. Take this time to talk together, share with one another about how you are affected and what it means to you to be an athlete, love an athlete, witness an athlete and celebrate the accomplishments of other athletes.
People who qualify to attend the Boston Marathon have the honor to race and run with the fastest athletes. People devote their lives, their time, their dreams and goals to crossing the finish line. Athletes battle mental demons, train hard, move their doubts aside and work hard to achieve their goal. Completing this aspiration to cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon may have been on an athletes ‘bucket list’ for decades and the day finally arrived; destroyed by atrocity let us not destroy their work, effort and accomplishments too by only focusing on the horrifying type of ‘awe’ that challenges us to make meanings and understand how someone (or two people) could commit such an act.
Rather let’s honor the athletes, the victims and their loved ones, and ourselves by keeping perspective on what is truly important in life. Solidify our values, affirm our commitment to live healthy, fit and active lives. Allow ourselves to return the sense of “awe” where it belongs: wrapped around the positive aspects of human nature, and the amazement of the abilities and accomplishments of others. Feel your feelings fully, but do not be controlled by them. An athlete knows that emotional self-management helps generate optimal sport performance. There are times for strong emotions and times to put them aside. Be athletic, strong, feel the feelings and let us grieve together,
rebuild our sense of ‘awe’ together and move forwards discovering our own True Form.