Five years ago, I did something almost as challenging as getting pregnant with twins. I signed up to run in the Chicago Marathon.
For eight months, my body was given over to a greater physical goal. Diet was crucial, fatigue unavoidable. Sound familiar?
Up until now, I had been planning to write a post about how much marathon training can prepare you for pregnancy. But then, on Monday, the bombings at the Boston Marathon threw a completely different lesson our way.
As we all now know, three people were killed and many dozens injured when two explosions went off at what, for the runners nearing the final stretch, was meant to be a lifetime high-point. One of the dead was an eight-year-old boy cheering on his dad. The others were two women cheering on the strangers running by them.
Rounding the final bend of a marathon is an amazing feeling. The burning pain, mental fog, physical fatigue and spiritual desperation lift in an instant, and you feel light as air. Sailing down the straight, all you are aware of is joy and the hope that your loved ones can see you in your moment of glory.
I soaked up that feeling in Chicago five years ago, scanning the cheering crowd for the faces of my husband and stepsons. For the people running down that last straight in Boston when the bombs went off — the relative slow-pokes who finished up about the same time I did — what was set to be a triumph of their spirit and ability instantly transformed into tragedy and shock.
It seems unfair to equate a deliberate act of terror with the vagaries of everyday life. But Monday’s events remind me that, even at the best of times, something unexpected can change everything.
That doesn’t mean we should give up, or stop taking on crazy projects that challenge our understanding of what we can do. But it does mean that, among the single-minded preparation — whether it’s going on morning-long training runs or sitting through prenatal classes — we should be cognizant of what really fuels us. Family. Friends. The desire to be our best selves, and to make our kids proud.
I might run another marathon one day. If I do, Boston will be in the back of my mind. Not because I’ll be scared of a freak act of terror, but because I’ll have children, too. And I’ll want them to know that, regardless of what scary realities exist in the world, anything is possible.