One Year Since Boston

A race I will never forget.

A race I will never forget.

It has been a year since the Boston Marathon bombings. A year since the shocking and unthinkable became reality in front of my eyes. I realize of course, that I am far luckier than many people who were at the finish line that day. My scars are purely mental and emotional, and my life has arguably been far better than it could have been. I am very lucky.

For many, many days and nights my mind was plagued by flashbacks. Sleepless nights, and shooting out of bed when a siren broke the silence became routine. I lost my love for running, and in general for most people. I lost my sense of self, my outlook on life, and my ability to control my emotions. Over time, PTSD is no longer part of my daily life. It slips in here and there, and I do my best to handle it.

I suppose on some level, my struggles to cope post-Boston are similar to the grueling mental demands of the marathon itself. When your legs hit mile 17-22, and your legs are screaming to stop, it is your mental strength that forces you to forge on towards the finish line and to never give up. Many people use the saying “Life is a marathon, not a sprint.” Let me tell you, my last year has been a marathon. The good miles where you cannot help but smile and run with such joy and focus, and the miles where you do all you can to hang on.

This year I have many friends and team mates who will toe the line in Hopkinton and take their journey on the best marathon course in the world, crossing the iconic finish line on Boylston Street. Part of me wishes so badly I were ready to go back. I want to be there to cheer. But I also know I am not ready. The scars are too deep, and I know going back would most likely lead to a mental spiral into PTSD. I want so badly to be stronger than that and to share the “Boston Strong” chorus every runner has decided to sing. But I can’t. Not yet. Unlike most of those runners, it was personal. Really personal. While so many runners wanted to make it about themselves and our “running community” as they watched the news from the safety of their own homes, I would have given anything to have been anywhere else. But we don’t get to make those decisions.

Socially, my life has changed a lot in the last year. Many friends who I used to consider close, or part of my social circle have dropped off and stopped including me. I get it. I have turned inward at times and perhaps repelled acts of concern. But honestly, most haven’t stepped up or cared enough to realize that this year was the year I needed friendship the most. Sure, it hurts. But I keep my big girl pants on and remind myself that sometimes events like this show you who your real friends are. That being said, other people in my life have stepped up and been incredibly supportive, when I know it took extra effort on their part to break me down. I am eternally grateful to those people. On my own, I probably would have gone crazy. Even the smallest gesture of a caring text message goes a very long way. To those who have made the effort, know that it means the world to me.

729950-1045-0028sI recently looked at photos from my race last year, and reread the three-part blog for the first time in over six months. Just rereading my own words made me feel ill. It also made me feel excitement and gratitude as I read about the great moments that day, the moments before the blasts. I am hopeful that I will be strong enough to take my spot in the 2015 race. I know that there’s a good chance I’ll emotionally fall apart on the course, or have to fight off panic attacks, since that has been my race norm this year. But I am going to do my best to overcome those mental hurdles. I know if I can train and race marathons that test every fiber of my mental and physical being, I can run Boston again. Logically I know that. Putting it into practice is the hard part. Thankfully, I have another whole year to work on healing.

In an attempt to not have this blog be a total downer, I hope that those of you training for a race do it with joy. Running is perhaps the simplest, most organic full-body expression of happiness. It doesn’t matter if you run fast or slow. If you do with with joy in your heart and a smile on your face, you are doing something right. Be grateful you have a body physically capable of running and celebrate that. While we all run and train for different reasons, at the core there has to be a love for the act or running, or why do it? Your relationship with running may eb and flow like the tide, and that’s perfectly okay. If you love it, the tide will change in time and you’ll never lose your love for the sport. On days where running wears me down, I remember that. I got into this sport because I loved it, and I will continue to be part of this sport as long as I love it – and hopefully share my love and inspire other runners along the way. Just put one foot in front the the other. Simple.

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