The Mark Blog

DISTANCES

As a runner, a writer, and mostly as a human being, I have been thinking about the tragedies in Boston. I have been thinking about the families who lost loved ones and the individuals who have been injured. I have been thinking about the people who have witnessed the bombings and their aftermath, who, perhaps, will be forever changed. I have been thinking about all of the good people who gathered last Monday in Boston to cheer for the runners. I've also been thinking about the joy of running and, more specifically, the sweetness of a marathon.

Running, like writing, is mostly a solitary sport. But on marathon day, it's as if the whole world is running with and cheering for you. Everything is vibrant and the world pulses– brightly, generously.

In a piece written in The New Yorker last Monday, shortly after the explosions, author Susan Orlean reflects on her New York City Marathon experience and the spirit of a marathon in a big city, characterizing it as "an exceptional, joyous moment, when [people] come together in the sweetest way, helping each other fly." (Source)

Also in The New Yorker, Dan Chiasson offers "A Poem for Boston," citing a 14th-century poem by Piers Plowman. He also reflects on the tradition of the marathon as a display of human endurance, alluding to the legendary origin of the 26.2-mile distance. Upon finishing, the first runner supposedly died of exhaustion. Chiasson writes, "Everyone is defying, in one way or another, mortality, the actual finish line whose figurative embodiment they plan to cross." (Source)

As I write this, the words “revision,” “reimagining,” and “faith” continue to surface in my mind. I wish we could revise what happened, and reimagine a new space in which the tragedy was averted. Then there's faith. Prior to the explosions, I'd been thinking about how making art demonstrates a belief that it is possible to uncover the shape of something meaningful, something that echoes the heart, even if the world seems incoherent. Now, in the aftermath of Boston, the necessity of unearthing and articulating emotional truths seems all the more poignant. Lastly, runners—last week's runners; next year's runners; runners every day, on every road, between now and then—are demonstrating faith that great distances can and will be covered, one stride at a time.