United We Run by Meg Sherwood

Liberty is to the collective body what health is to every individual body. Without health, no pleasure can be tasted by man; without liberty, no happiness can be enjoyed by society.
-Thomas Jefferson

Monday, April 15, 2013: Patriots’ Day for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. I’m an avid competitive runner and look forward to this day every year. To me, the Boston Marathon represents the pinnacle of running for common runners like myself. It’s my dream to qualify for and run this race during my lifetime.

Monday afternoon I learned from a co-worker of the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I was tracking a couple of friends on the marathon website but had no idea about the bombings. I quickly checked news sites and was able to watch muted coverage on my boss’s TV. As I read the very early accounts and saw the footage, I was shocked. A thousand questions came to mind. Is everyone OK? Where are my running friends? I know some of them crossed the finish line but are they safe? What about the others? How did this happen? Were those really bombs? As I watched the silent coverage, one thought cut through: this is an attack on our freedom.

 As I listened to coverage on the radio on my drive home, picked up the TV coverage at home, and checked Twitter and Facebook, the thought wouldn’t escape. This was a malicious act, it was senseless, it was heartless, it attacked the core of what I consider to be a great expression of freedom: running. At that point, I cried. The Boston Marathon’s iconic “Heartbreak Hill” took on an entirely new meaning for me…I was heartbroken for Boston.  And because I didn’t know what else to do and couldn’t make sense out of any of it, I decided to do the only thing that did make sense to me: run. I ran 2.62 miles as a tribute to Boston, I ran to chase away fear, I ran to keep the free spirit alive.

I felt better when I returned home, but that was temporary. I turned the coverage back on while making dinner and at that point, for the first time, saw the video coverage of the bombings with audio. I heard the explosions, I heard the screams, I heard the shouts of terror and confusion, and again, I cried. I’ve run 4 marathons, and I know how grueling yet joyous a marathon finish is. And this scene was the complete antithesis. A marathon finish line is filled with cheering spectators, encouraging volunteers, congratulatory friends and family, and celebratory runners. Not bombs, lost limbs, causalities, screams, sirens, and mass chaos resembling a war zone. The freedom of running, to watch running, to support running, to celebrate life at its best was attacked.

The time on the official race clock directly above the finish line read 4 hours and 9 minutes when the first bomb shook Boylston Street. The significance of this time was not lost on me. Had I qualified for Boston in one of my previous two attempts and successfully registered, I would have made the 26 mile 385 yard journey from Hopkinton to Boston on that day and would very likely have been in the vicinity of the finish line when the bomb exploded. My family would have been right there cheering…just like Martin Richard, his mom, and sister cheered for their dad and husband. That little 8 year old boy, his mother, and sister weren’t a threat to anyone, they had done nothing wrong, they were at the finish line that day because they love their dad and husband. To a marathoner in the final stretch, that love and support means more than words can express…it is priceless. For such innocence to be taken away in one horrific instant is unfathomable.

Despite the panic and chaos, the running community displayed something it’s so good at…responding, adapting, and joining together to help each other through a time of adversity. Acts of heroism abounded and far outweighed the act of terrorism. The first responders immediately rushed to the scene to treat victims. Race volunteers and runners ran to the scene to help and pick up fallen spectators and other runners. The race medical tent personnel created a makeshift hospital to provide emergency care on the scene. Wheelchairs transported the injured before ambulances arrived with stretchers. The response for blood donations was so plentiful that the center had to turn donators away and ask them to return in the coming weeks when the need for blood would still be high. All of these acts and more speak volumes of the American spirit to act and join together during a time of crisis.

In the week following the bombings, the outpouring of support for the victims and their families and friends has been amazing. One Fund Boston was established to accept donations, raising a phenomenal $20 million in one week. Runners across the country are mobilizing at already established races and grassroots impromptu group runs to show their solidarity. Ultimately, we are a nation built on freedom and we will not be deterred. Boston strong. Boston stands as one. United we stand and united we run.

About the Author:

MEG SHERWOOD is a lover of running.  She started running 14 years ago and hasn’t stopped.  Meg checked “run a marathon” off her bucket list in 2010, but that was just the beginning.  She has completed 4 marathons to date and one day hopes to qualify for and run Boston.

Photo Credit: “Runner’s Unite Race Bib” http://www.runjunkees.com/


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4 Responses to United We Run by Meg Sherwood

  1. The displays of competence, courage, and solidarity during and following the terrorist attack are awe inspiring, and we should do our commending and giving with open hearts. In addition, we need to think seriously about how it is that two young people threw away their lives and inflicted dreadful, life-altering horror upon so many who were engaging in such an innocent pursuit. Running is no threat to Islam. It does not give offense to Allah the way, it was argued by the 9/11 terrorists, the WTC dishonored Allah by symbolizing the impotence of Islamic countries to better the economic well-being of millions of his minions.

    I’m currently enrolled in a Terror/Anti-terror class at Eastern Kentucky University, dealing with an instructor intent on defending the moral relativism rampant in academia. The mantra of one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is still chanted in the halls of ivy despite the mounting toll of innocent lives destroyed by radical criminals.This man apologized! for making his students confront an actual act of terror after assigning us videos “teaching” us about Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground, holding these homegrown terrorists up as heroes after they killed three innocent men in a bank robbery, and extolling the virtues and personal commitment of their bombing campaign during the 1960’s.

    How did these refugees from war-torn Chechnya, and recipients of American freedom and financial generosity “self-radicalize”? Perhaps this radicalization not only happened over the internet, or by listening to radical Imams,but also occurred in their college classrooms. Is it possible that the collectivist, strangulating Liberal ideology that rejects American exceptionalism played a significant role, especially in the life of the 19 year old who spent his early years in one of America’s prestigious high schools?

    In addition to looking at the madrasas, the internet, and social media, we need to take a long, hard look at what is being taught in our public schools by the “red diaper babies” who want the demise of the land of the free and the home of the brave. If they can’t deprive us of our freedom by education, they’ll do it through the fruits of their pedagogy.

  2. Joe Blow says:

    As Martin Luther King said : “Violence is the language of the inarticulate.”

    We live in a world dominated by power hierarchies – political, religious, commercial. In such a world the freedom of the individual is often severely limited. There are wars in which all sides accidentally or on purpose kill civilians. There are poor people whose desperation is exploited by the greedy. There are religious leaders who betray the founders of their own religions by preaching hate or intolerance. There are liberals who lie and spread hate against conservatives and conservatives who lie and spread hate against liberals. Ignorance and delusion are far more common than wisdom or honesty. In such a world it is easy for individuals to become angry to the level of hatred and the desire to inflict violence.

    Sometimes dogma exacerbates the focusing of this anger or fear in ways which are not just or helpful, but we should not think that the answer is to counter their dogma with our dogma. Dogma is a defence against free thought based on the fear that such thought will lead us to a scary place. We are all, to the extent that we are frightened, dogmatists. Only the individual who is free of fear can think freely and honestly about the world. We meet such individuals very rarely and almost never on internet discussion boards, where rigid dogmatic position argues with rigid dogmatic position.

    We don’t need to be on a side. The sides are where the unthinking masses congregate. The realist sits apart and sees what is happening and how each side in a conflict makes the other side inevitable.

    Just because those who carry out supposedly politically-motivated violence against our country are wrong, doesn’t mean that injustices have not been committed by people who claim to represent our country. I think we can all agree that The Weather Underground bombings were wrong. But so was the Vietnam War. Killing is killing, but still, compare three men killed in a bank robbery to 300-500 killed and many women raped by U.S. soldiers at Mai Lai. The anger of The Weather Underground was 100% justified. But violence was not the way to express it either morally or tactically.

    The answer is to encourage and welcome verbal and literary expressions of anger and frustration. For those of us who have the ability to look beyond our own prejudices it is important to be able to acknowledge the validity of the anger of those who view us as an enemy. They may be confused. They may be mistaken in seeing us as being in some way responsible for the injustices that have made them feel the way they feel. But anger and hatred always have their origin in deep pain and fear. And that pain and fear needs to be acknowledged.

    When violence occurs it is hard not to be afraid. But we can’t be free if we are afraid. Fear makes us want to control our environment – to make more rules about what should be taught in schools, whether people can stage street protests, what can be said on the internet… In other words, fear makes us want to restrict freedom in our society. What we need to do is try to be fearless and allow ourselves and others greater freedom in all areas but violence.

  3. There are those, like me, who do not believe the Vietnam War was wrong–the soldiers never lost a battle but the politicians lost the war–so I do not agree with you that the Weather Underground was 100% justified. Moreover, I believe that we rightly make distinctions about killing; not all killing is murder, for example. We allow for justifiable homicide and self defense.

    Civil disobedience carries a price. When Mai Lai was discovered, perpetrators paid the price. How many years did Ayers spend in prison for bombing the Pentagon? None. As one who lived through those times, I know how pampered and silly the protestors were. That people who committed terrorism and ran away from responsibility and were never held accountable for their violence now have taxpayer supported jobs at the universities while Vietnam vets still live on the streets is criminal.

    And there are also people like me who do not hold Martin Luther King Jr. up as a hero (Rosa Parks deserves the holiday). I agree with you that we need less rules, not more. That we need more free speech, not less. However, it’s not just fear that makes us want to control our environment, it’s good sense. That’s why we have air conditioning, cook meat and eggs thoroughly, and protect the 2nd Amendment. Safety is a valid concern.

    • Joe Blow says:

      How can U.S. and Australian involvement in the Vietnam War be justified? If there were a civil war in the United States would you want a foreign army to invade and fight a bloody war against the side which had the most support? And how can the U.S. administration’s lies about the Gulf of Tonkin incident be justified? Is it O.K. to lie in order to build up support for the invasion of a foreign country? And what price did the perpetrators of Mai Lai pay? Mass murder and pack rape are serious crimes which normally would be given life imprisonment. And Mai Lai was not an isolated incident. I’ve watched the documentary Winter Soldier in which a number soldiers confessed to raping and mutilating Vietnamese women. For each confession it is pretty safe to assume there were many other incidents which were not admitted by the perpetrators. But I don’t blame the soldiers. I blame the politicians who sent them there. In the horror of war a lot of men will lose their self-control. And what about the illegal bombing of Cambodia? Vietnam vets live on the streets because the government which used them then abandoned them.

      There is a difference between taking due care of our health and making use of technology to make our environment more comfortable and trying to control our environment or the behaviour of others. The smartest approach is to work with the environment and to work with others cooperatively for our mutual benefit. Sometimes trying to exercise a degree of control is unavoidable, such as having to put a dangerous criminal in prison, but there is always a price to pay for this. Deprival of freedom and the use of violence or the threat of violence are always evil. They may be hard to avoid for self-defense, but we should be aware that it is possible the price we will pay is greater than the advantage we get. When problems or disputes are resolved through reason, love or a sense of justice, we can know that good has triumphed. When we resolve them through the use of force, all we can know is that might won, and might is often on the side of evil. In fact, I think that evil can be defined as the imposition of our will on others. If we respond to those who impose their will on us by imposing our will on them, then we have become contaminated by their evil. We have become a carrier of their disease. Of course this is hard to avoid at times, but I think it is important not to enter into it lightly. The United States has the highest reported incarceration rate in the world. If the control approach worked you would expect the United States to also be the safest country in the world. Is it? Sometimes, if we believe in the power of reason and love to bring health to our society we need to be prepared to have the courage to risk our safety in the process.

What do you think?