Parenting

How the Boston Marathon explosions united my running family

Jennifer reflects on how the Boston Marathon explosions impact the running community.

Jennifer (right) with Rhonda-Marie at the 2012 Achilles 5K run.

Safe.”

That was the text I received at 3:34 p.m. on April 15, 2013 from my friend Rhonda-Marie Avery. And why wouldn’t she be safe? After all, Rhonda was running in the 117th Annual Boston Marathon, a race she had been working to qualify for since 2011. At her side was her Achilles Canada guide, Joe (Rhonda is legally blind), and her husband Rick and three young children were waiting for her at the finish line. 

What I didn’t know at the time was that Rhonda was texting me from a church seven kilometres from the finish line, held in lockdown after explosions rocked the running world’s most historic and beloved event. I had been at the doctor getting treatment for my daughter’s ear infection and ruptured ear drum, and it wasn’t until I checked my other texts that I learned what happened. I spent the afternoon glued to Twitter and Facebook, trying to connect Peterborough runners with their friends and local media to spread the word that they were safe. Phone calls and texts from the Avery family reassured loved ones that they were physically safe, and were mentally holding it together — as much as they could, given the circumstances. 

On the other hand, I was an emotional wreck and couldn’t stop crying. One of my dearest friends had a dream taken from her, with her family only 200 metres away from the blasts.

Finally, nine hours after starting her race, I received a text from Rhonda saying she was reunited with her family. She had gone on to finish the marathon distance, then tacked on another four kilometres for a total of 46 kilometres covered. In true Rhonda style, she stopped to poetically give the middle finger to the 35 KM marker on the course, where she and more than 4,000 other runners were stopped and rushed to a safe location away from the finish line.

And that’s what runners do. We run on. We give the middle finger to whatever stands in our way and persevere. We stick together and help each other achieve seemingly impossible goals. We suffer and push through. We connect, reach out, cheer on and lift up. 

And run is what I did last night. After my children were tucked in, I ran my favourite and most familiar trail. I ran so hard I thought my heart might burst. I ran even though I’m scared of running at night, especially on the trails. I ran because it’s the only way I could think of helping the running community who has selflessly supported me.

Today, if you are a runner, I ask that you run without fear. 

And if you are not a runner, please take that first step today. There are so many reasons I can list why running is good for you, but the real reason is that you will be joining the biggest kickass family on the planet.

Run safe and without fear, my friends.

There is a grassroots movement asking everyone to wear their favourite race t-shirt or the blue and yellow colours of the Boston Athletic Association today. I’d love to see your pictures. Tweet them to me at @jenpinarski.