Bipedalism is a thing we take for granted, as humans, for the obvious reason that we evolved that skill some eons ago. But every runner had this though after the Boston bombings: What if that had been me? What if I were among the amputees? What if I could never run again?
It's a dread thought, best pushed out of mind.
Still, it was there, rattling around with my thoughts on the fastest guy I know. (I've decided not to be more specific than that, because it's simply not my story.) He's a runner in the truest sense, which has little to do with that speed, and everything to do with his fevered work ethic. It's an identity he embodies, articulately explores, and promotes.
But he's not running now, nor will he for a while, because he's got cancer. I would say that this is unfair, because it certainly feels like it is. But it also seems as if those words don't capture the feeling, and anyway, what good do my words do? I would say that I was running for him, but that's an terribly arrogant idea on some level, to think that my running could help in some way. It was, quite literally, the least I could do. But it was also something I couldn't help but do, in a sense, because my thoughts never wandered away for long.
And so I arrived at Clinton Lake, eager to run, cognizant of the circumstances that allowed me to do so, and supremely grateful for them. I delighted in the budding green, the dirt, the rocks, the crowds, the camaraderie, the movement.
Everything about it was beautiful.
I got second, but the details seem even more trivial than usual. The winner utterly destroyed me, but whatever. I tied for second, but it's cool, because sharing the run made it so much better.
Katherine Switzer, the first woman to finsish the Boston Marathon, said "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon." I ran half of one instead, but found the dose sufficient.
Running is just running. It can't save the world, and it can neither stop bad things from happening nor make them right. But the world inside yourself - the only thing you can really control anyway - is greatly improved by it. And that's significant.