Running is not a team sport — so they say. It’s every person for themselves, trying to reach the finish line. But I see things differently. Running is not only a team sport, but a community sport. Every race I’ve witnessed I’ve seen runners helping other runners, cheering each other on, pushing each other to finish. Every race I’ve witnessed there have been scores of runners who were racing in honor or memory of a person important in their lives, or runners who are raising money or awareness for a cause or charity. Runners are givers. But it goes beyond the races. Once you are a part of the running community, you suddenly have a huge support system of people, and knowledge, and enthusiasm. It’s a community of people who push themselves to their limits, not just to see what they themselves are capable of, but to connect with every other person’s challenges, suffering, and ultimately, their triumphs.
But it’s not just about the runners either; it’s about the community around them. It’s about their friends and family there to support them. It’s about the volunteers who give their day to make the event fun and without mishap. It’s about the safety and security personnel, the EMT’s, the police officers, the firefighters, there to tend any injuries, there to close roads and direct traffic and protect us from the elements.
We don’t know much about what happened yesterday, but I don’t want to focus on who’s responsible or what really happened. I want to focus on how strong the running community really is. I want to focus on how much the running community gives. A phrase that’s been running around the internet over the past day was Mr. Fred Roger’s quote “Look for the helpers”. But in a day like yesterday, you don’t have to look hard. The community took action, and they saved numerous lives. Seconds after the blasts, you can see police and firefighters rushing to the scene. You can see off-duty or retired police, firefighters, EMTs, and military personnel, some of whom had just finished a marathon, running towards the danger to go save lives. You can see regular people, volunteers, and racers all working to help their community. And the response will be ongoing. The community will stand and fight, they will support and nurture, and they will rise again to any challenge they face. And this isn’t the first time either.
Days after Hurricane Sandy, the New York Marathon was cancelled due to extreme damage to the region as well as needing the huge number of emergency resources needed across the city and local area. So did the marathon runners abandon ship? Did they just leave to go home because the race was over? No. Runners from around the world took to the streets to help with the recovery efforts. They helped deliver food and necessities. They helped clean out damaged homes. They provided support for people they have never met before, but felt very connected to because that’s what they do. Runners are not lone individuals on an unbeaten path. They are a part of a huge community that looks out for each other, their larger communities, and the communities of the places those runners go to run.
We saw incredible violence yesterday. But we also saw our community step up and take care of those who need it the most. So when you see something like this, don’t just look at the violence. Look for the runners. Look for the helpers. They are not too hard to find.