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BM 2013: A Day of Human Spirit?


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It was my fourth consecutive time running the Boston Marathon - a day that has become for me less of an annual challenge of my own personal limits and more of a day to celebrate the transcending power of the human spirit to conquer the seemingly impossible. Its not about numbers - 26.2 miles is just an example. And that recurring experience has awakened an emotion inside me about the race so much that I feel compelled to reflect on it, share it, motivate others to experience it.

By this point I was involved with a group of costumed charity runners that had run in the race the past four years - a crew gathered on a mission to push their own limits while at the same time help spark positive change efforts in the Boston community - a semi-heroic mesh of college-age and inspired individuals who call ourselves the "Burger Brigade" (which consisted of several NEU students). The principle was to raise money and give it away through micro-grants which would fund social projects that address basic human needs. The race throughout the years has become a fundraising vehicle to tell stories and state our mission.

It was my third year participating in this laughable charitable constumed endurance challenge and the effort had grown contageously. I remember looking for friends and family out on the course - I was mostly smiling. The weather could not have been better. No personal records were broken, but I was in good spirits strolling onto Boylston and beating my time from the scorching conditions of the previous year. I luckily found the side of a close friend who also completed the race and we were side-by-side by the John Hancock tower gazing at the finish line. We were content not to move too soon and happily stood watching the finish line in hope of seeing other friends and team members finish the race.

Age-groupers were strolling in one at a time, culminating a goal that had certainly consumed the last 9 months. Next came the charity runners - the ones with the true stories. Those who perhaps were consumed by the dream of completing 26.2 miles for their entire lives. I remember thinking that they are the true heros; they are the ones who put everything they have - blood sweat and tears. They are the ones funding cancer research and disease prevention: raising money to change people's lives.

Then the first bomb went off.

First instinct? Confusion. It was as if a mock Revolutionary War cannon went off to celebrate Patriots day. Then the other went off. By then I knew something was wrong. Yellow BAA volunteer coats started running. People were screaming. I saw limping marathon runners crying. It was all so hard to process.

All I knew at the time, hobbling after my own 26.2 mile run, I was powerless to help anyone else. Everywhere felt unsafe. I figured the most logical course of action was to get out of there. My friend and I made way for Back Bay Station and took the orange line to Ruggles before walking at post-marathon pace for apartment refuge. I remember phone did not stop ringing for 24 hours. Friends from all over the country and world who know I had run were reaching out concerned. It sounds crazy, but never in my life did I feel so closely connected with friends, family, and the entire world than I did that day. We were at the epicenter of an act of terror that rippled throughout the entire planet, and a wave of compassion rippled right back. Almost instantaneously.

Later that night, we gathered together with members of our charity team to reflect as a group. Though several team members were within proximity to the bomb, luckily nobody was injured. It took a week for the entire event to settle down and for us all to understand what exactly happened. It took months to process. As a charity foundation, we decided to deter from our plan for our first micro-grant and reach out immediately to the Richard family with hopes of directly helping those who needed it most. It was a day of an unspeakable act - and one that creates much hatred and bigotry.

Looking back it was a horrible event which evokes the deepest sadness inside me for not only direct and indirect victims, especially children, but also the broken dreams of charity runners.

Though retrospectively, I feel not hatred, fear, anger, or vengeance to Tamerlan Tsarnaev his family. Perhaps what I feel most is disappointment - disappointment that he could be so misguided to commit such an act. Upset that he could have felt so unwelcome in our society that he could be influenced to commit such unspeakable misanthropic acts. But I want to stress that vengeance is the take away here.

Perhaps the tone of the day is hard to wrap my finger around. Yes it was horrible. But believe it or not, I look back upon and feel not hate, vengeance, or anger, but ... sympathy for those who suffer and still suffer. Another feeling I have might surprise you. Gratitude. A mere thankfulness for life itself? For the ability to know who was there when things really went wrong. A day that immediate responders reached out and revealed themselves as the heroes that they are. A day that enabled a city to unite to persevere through tragedy - a day when ties were stronger. Everyone chipped in. The burden was shared by all. And to come full circle, once again, the Boston Marathon was a day that truly revealed to me the power of the human spirit.

Many human spirits.

I knew the Boston marathon would continue and stronger than ever before. I will be running in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Thanks for hearing out my story. Look for me on Monday.

-Danny Walsh


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