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Medal or mettle?

Don’t mess with marathoners. Especially not Boston marathoners. Those folks are serious about their running. You have to qualify for Boston. I will never run Boston.

It’s been interesting reading some of the accounts of the runners. The ones who had “just finished” and the ones who were “about to finish” and the ones who were at mile 25.5, 7 tenths of a mile from the finish. People who run the Boston marathon take their finish line seriously. It’s how they measure themselves. How they know whether they have succeeded. Whether all this time in preparation, all the effort made to get to the race, all the pain endured throughout the race was worth it.

They are in the business of finishing. Immediately, they talked of next year, next race. Heck, why wait? A bunch of runners collected via social media connection and ran in defiance and remembrance that evening. Because there’s one thing you don’t take from a runner – her road.

I had it wrong. It wasn’t the finish; it was the road that was meant to be theirs, and theirs alone, on Monday. Their right. Their tradition. Their story. It’s been written along Boylston Street. And this horror of an un-finish is a story still in the writing. It has left unfinished business.

But not just for these. Because all across America other folks are taking to the roads in solidarity with these runners and “running for Boston” (#runforBoston). You can sign in and pledge to run a race of any distance before April 14th of next year. And, you can share your story.

Ironically, for all Michelle Obama’s efforts in the “Just Move” campaign to get a nation of people, especially kids, off the couch and out into the fresh air, this event may have surpassed it in less than 30 seconds. We are a nation that responds to faces and stories, not to causes.

There will be volumes of stories written about that day, but one touched thousands ~ woman who received a great kindness from an anonymous fellow runner. And via the miracle of Facebook the two runners have been introduced. Laura Wellington, who was the beneficiary of a great kindness from Brent Cunningham. (I’ll re-post the story below)

I just love in the comments on her page how people have said of Brent, “I’m not surprised. This sounds like him.”

Makes me wonder, if the story got out about something I’d done in a telling moment, what would it say about me? Or, if my life were taken in a flash, what would the remnants of my life speak?

Here’s Laura’s story…

As some of you know, I was 1/2 mile from the finish line when the explosion went off. I had no idea what was going on until I finally stopped and asked someone. Knowing that my family was at the finish line waiting for me, I started panicking, trying to call them. Diverted away from the finish line, I started walking down Mass Ave towards Symphony Hall still not knowing where my family was. Right before the intersection of Huntington, I was able to get in touch with Bryan and found out he was with my family and they were safe. I was just so happy to hear his voice that I sat down and started crying. Just couldn’t hold it back. At that moment, a couple walking by stopped. The woman took the space tent off her husband, who had finished the marathon, and wrapped it around me. She asked me if I was okay, if I knew where my family was. I reassured her I knew where they were and I would be ok. The man then asked me if I finished to which I nodded “no.” He then proceeded to take the medal off from around his neck and placed it around mine. He told me “you are a finisher in my eyes.” I was barely able to choke out a “thank you” between my tears.Odds are I will never see this couple again, but I’m reaching out with the slim chance that I will be able to express to them just what this gesture meant to me. I was so in need of a familiar face at that point in time. This couple reassured me that even though such a terrible thing had happened, everything was going to be ok.

Finishers medal

OMG, Someone stole the finish line

I was going to write “My water bottle runneth over,” but that won’t cut it today. My water bottle just got punctured by a piece of flying shrapnel. Its contents are leaking out all over the sidewalk. Oh-my-God.

I don’t like the commonality of that expression. The Omg’s uttered by teens and young adults in regular conversation. An expression of delight or disgust. An outburst of enthusiasm or horror. An interjection. An expectorant. An expletive.

That’s not the way our Lord’s name is supposed to be used.

Well, I am climbing down off my high horse. Because yesterday at the Boston marathon, it was both an expletive and a prayer. And somehow that fits. In a moment, a triumphant celebration was reduced to chaos, confusion and horror. A war scene on the streets of the city. Taunting are the flapping finish-line flags, colored for nations represented by the runners.

All of a sudden the race didn’t matter. As a Washington Post writer put it,

“Marathon runners halted, then ran again, this time with no destination but for an elusive place they could call safe.”

Someone stole the finish line. Oh, the banner was still waving, beckoning the runners across it, but it didn’t matter any more. Finishing didn’t signify anything, not anything of importance.

This is particularly poignant for me – someone who works with athletes and whose business is called “Fit2Finish.” The notion that some need help getting to the finish line is why I do what I do. The reality that some give up before they get there is unavoidable. But the idea that someone took the finish line away…now that is what has me saying OMG. Not that they stole the banner but, in a more insidious way, they stole the joy by making it not matter.

All of a sudden it didn’t. And so be it. It’s not where we finish but how we finish that matters. We’re all running toward our finish line. Some at a sprint, some at a plod, most at a pace in between. I expect what really matters is, if along the way a bomb goes off and then a second, we’d give up our race to attend to the wounded. As many did yesterday.

All the runners eventually were stopped. I say eventually because I read about one runner, a Boston psychology professor and his daughter, who heard the blasts and saw the chaos but refused to stop. Until they were made to. “Your race is over,” they were told by officials.

Now those are words I wouldn’t want to hear when I reach the end of this race I’m running called life. Then it might be too late to call out to God. This is God’s finish line after all. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Or more properly,

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart. 
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.” 
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. ~ Job 1:20-22

It’s that last thing that’s the kicker. In it all, praise the Lord. This is not God’s doing. God ushers us into the safe place again and again when we call on Him. Even as we make our way to a destination we don’t yet know. Even when we call Him OMG. No one can take that away from me.

My prayers and tears are with all those whose lives were lost, disrupted or forever changed by the events at the Boston marathon yesterday. Civilians who all of sudden were part of a war zone. Active healthy people turned wounded warriors. They say war is hell, and that’s what it appeared to be on the streets of Boston yesterday. Except for one thing: I saw and read about those who stopped and helped. Who were God among them.

Either it wasn’t hell, or God goes there, too.

May the name of the Lord be praised.

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