Running to (not from) Memories and Resilience
From a psychological standpoint, resiliency is the ability deal with stress and adversity, and eventually bounce back or at least return to a previous state. This week has given me pause to think about the connection between physical and psychological resiliency as it relates to my running and overall well-being. About six years ago, I still vividly remember watching the news flood in from the tragedy at Virginia Tech. I had left Blacksburg less than two years prior, and I still felt a very close connection to the campus community, and the many friends, former students, and colleagues I still had connections with on a regular basis. There is no way to try to make sense of a senseless act, which has always been a difficult reality for me to internalize. I am an analytical person, I structure my life around knowledge, so the inability to access the necessary knowledge can be hard. As a result, my resiliency manifests itself in attempting to understand, even though I know I can’t ever really know. Then, less than 24 hours before the anniversary of the VT tragedy, two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
As a runner who spends a great deal of time thinking about the various aspects of the sport, Boston has a special place in my heart. Although my marathon times have been steadily improving, I’m nowhere near fast enough to actually find myself in a position to toe the line at the Boston Marathon. However, I delight in watching the coverage of the race, following the elite runners along with friends and acquaintances who do have the honor of running. The positive energy, excitement, passion, and commitment of those participating in any way (runner, volunteer, support crew, spectator) makes me proud to call myself a runner. I feel as though I am a part of such an amazing community of individuals, each of whom understands the concept of resiliency in a very unique way. No matter how many marathons you have run, the ability to remember each of them fondly seems to permeate the community. Whether it was a PR race, a first marathon, a local race or a national stage, the memory attached to crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles is strong. The way we call upon the emotional, psychological, and physical strength inside us to push forward combines to form a powerful and quickly committed memory. Sadly, the emotional, psychological, and physical trauma associated with these tragedies can have the same impact on those most closely involved.
However, after running 26 miles, those memories (good and bad) become our strength. The ability to summon those memories in order to handle the stress and anxiety of the next 26 is what keeps us bouncing back, year after year. Those same memories are what have kept the Boston Marathon going for well over 100 years, and those same memories are what will bring people back to Boston, more passionate than ever, in 2014. Those same memories allow me to honor the memory of those that lost their lives at Virginia Tech, as well as those that fell victim to the horrific events on Monday.
Runners truly are a remarkable bunch. The overwhelming sentiment following these attacks has been the strength and resiliency of Bostonians and runners to endure. That is what we do, after all. In the coming weeks and months, there will talk of strengthening security for future events, questioning if security could have been tighter on race day, and (hopefully) scrutinizing the motive(s) of the individual or individuals responsible for this attack. Changes will be made, reports will be written, trials will be conducted, and runners will keep running. As hard as it is for me to acknowledge, all of the discussion and investigation may placate the media and politicians, but it will never provide us with the answers we truly seek. As with so many tragedies that have come before, it isn’t the answers that get us out of bed in the morning. It isn’t the answers that allow us to rebuild. Our resilience as runners, and as human beings, is fueled by memories and a community that shares them.
On Monday evening, I headed out for my planned 3.2 mile run in remembrance of those that lost their lives at Virginia Tech. The run took on added meaning, and I repeated my distance in memory of the most recent attack. I didn’t have answers then, and I don’t have them now. What I do have is an amazing running community, my memories, and a pair of shoes…so I run. neVer forgeT.