A dirty wedding dress hangs over my steely kitchen chair. I’ve already removed enough safety pins to make one of those ridiculous emo choker necklaces, the kind I had wished my identity could contain in September 2001. The veil is crushed underneath, and the dress has met an uncharitable end from its chaste beginnings. My race bib is still on the table. I haven’t scrunched up the courage to throw it away, even though I have no designated drawer for disposable nostalgia.
I can’t help it. Saturday’s race was only the last 6.2 of a real marathon like Boston, but the atmosphere is still happily childish, victorious, and humanistic in the best sense possible. You get 38,000+ participants, another few thousand volunteers, and a healthy dose of family and spectators, all part of this massive event that doesn’t really mean anything. We’re all just covering 32,808 feet on two feet.
They say the hospitals had to perform multiple amputations.
I look at that silly, ridiculously heavy satin under the bright kitchen light (we installed a dimmer because its full strength was as bright as a hospital, but warmer) and I think about the ridiculous story I was going to tell about running with a fake bouquet in one hand and a wad of the dress train in the other. All the people who smiled when they saw my deliberate artifice and said absurd things. “The Runaway Bride,” there she goes. It was going to signify community and avoiding self-seriousness and probably be entirely too serious itself. Instead, I think of last races, races overshadowed, races unfinished, and races never run. So many people running, and interrupted.
You know what they say about marathoners. 100% discipline, 100% strength, 200% crazy. The runners who qualify for Boston represent the pinnacle–something the rest of us look on with bewilderment, admiration, and a little bit of envy. Even those of us who flatly refuse to train that intensely go a little slack-jawed at these folks. Some reward they got today. That kills me. I know that every single marathoner will get back on the course in the future, because that’s what marathoners do, setbacks be damned–then I think about an eight-year-old boy. I swear.
I hate it because running is a community centered around doing rather than dissecting. A runner is a type of creator and instigator, this metaphysical mix of aesthetic and glutton. You can’t do a 5K without feeling encouraged by the other people around you. Everyone wants you to succeed, to be better, to enjoy being outside just for the hell of it. For once in a crazy world, we get to hang out as strangers with a common smile because we’re heading towards the finish line. Who cares about sounding cliche if you have the miles to back you up.
Boston is a long way from Richmond. All my acquaintances and friends are unscathed in this disaster. The tick-tick-ticking of my keys on the keyboard is as close as I come to the sound of pounding feet the pavement today. Boston isn’t my tragedy, and I feel a little guilty for co-opting it and acting like I have a right to be emotionally affected. After all, writing about it is an implicit request–demand, plea, whatever–for people to read. Many people have far more right to claim this tragedy as theirs, and they need support in ways I can’t comprehend. But my dealing-with-bad-things filter is clogged after this, after Gosnell, after talking to young women who feel so suffocated by a system meant to protect them that they run from home. Brokenness bubbles up and nearly overwhelms. My prayers go in many directions, and especially north to Boston tonight.
Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come.
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”