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Let’s keep on running

Bridget Nugent | Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Boston Marathon tragedy has dominated conversation on campus since Monday. The myriad of emotions such a tragedy evokes can infrequently be captured in themes of hope, but I wanted to attempt to convey some positive musings.
I speak as an avid, though unaccomplished, runner. I run races in New York, Washington and Chicago not because of medals, but because I can find no atmosphere like the final miles of a race. The final stretch of an officiated long-distance race is so beautiful – so beautiful that I simply refuse to let the circumstances of Boston become the predominant narrative of marathon running.
The heart of this sport is resiliency – a test of mental and physical rigor. Along a race course, talents, ambitious, positions and even ability are irrelevant: no one cares if you finish the race in two hours or eight. As you cross the finish line, a crowd of strangers will cheer for you in a raucous blend of screaming, music, clapping, loud speakers and noisemakers. This is the splendor of long-distance running: it is a community that awards medals on completion. With very little exception, a finish is a finish.
In valuing endurance, running fosters a level of camaraderie among its contender-strangers that is not unlike the kind found in team activities. Everyone feels and knows they start and finish a race with everyone else, with place and pace at the whim of bodies alone. The distance after the starting line is full of joking, heavy breaths, pain and unity. This is why people bond with strangers, pace with strangers and give up precious seconds of race time to help another after a fall. Then, upon completion, the finish line is a space of community and celebration.
So, when a person decides to set off a bomb in the final few miles of a marathon, it is a moral transgression I cannot begin to articulate or understand. Such a horrific event targets not just a race or a crowd, but an embodiment of resiliency and triumph. Although I cannot comprehend the events of today, this much I know: people need to keep running. That will honor the sport: to continue in spite of a difficult, inconceivable stretch. As the world looks to a senseless act, we can find comfort in the incredible images of people helping one another after those bombs exploded. Across the media, we find stories and images of those who rushed in to help and those who were there caring for those injured. God is present in that. Runners must have faith in that and in each other, and determine to cross more finish lines.

Bridget Nugent
assistant rector
Howard Hall
April 18