‘I’ll go back to the Boston Marathon’

April 15 was the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, the oldest and most prestigious foot race in the world. I have had the privilege of running 20 of them.The amazing camaraderie among the runners, spectators, volunteers, and the City of Boston draws me and my family back every year. This race has a special place in my heart.

My wife Roberta went to Boston University. We were classmates in our first year of medical school at the University of Virginia. She heard I was going up to run the race and asked if she could come. Boston Marathon day was celebration day when she was a student and after a year of medical school classes one wants to reunite with their true spirit. My spirit was to run and it was an outlet of relaxation in medical school just as it is today. Roberta and I became close friends on this road trip. Three years later we married.

The big running events are the celebrations and the true tests of spirit and exercise science. I have spent a lifetime trying to understand and teach how the body works and ages and without getting into the mix every year it would all be theory.

I also want my children to experience these events and see their dad out there moving. Life is not a spectator sport. After this year’s race my son Leo asked if he could run the race with me someday. This will be the ultimate running victory, to cross the Boston Marathon finish with your child. He is 10, so I promised we’d do the 5K together next year if he wants. It’s held the day before you cross the same finish line.

My family cheers from Kenmore Square at Mile 25 and like those killed and severely injured on Boylston Street they were there for only one reason: to support and cheer the Boston marathoners. The victims are part of our extended family, whether they are runners or not.

Running Stores from around the country are hosting community runs in memory and support of the Boston victims. Ours was held April 24. My University of Virginia college teammate Colin Peddie owns Marathon Sports on Boylston Street, which was the site of the first bomb. Miraculously none of his employees were hurt.

Within seconds of the first explosion, the 12 employees at Marathon Sports came to the aid of the victims on the sidewalk in front of their store. The bomb had exploded only 20 feet from their door, shattering the storefront.

They pulled victims into the store and wrapped their wounds with merchandise to control the bleeding. One employee took off his belt and expertly applied a tourniquet to a woman’s mangled arm. Doctors later credited him with saving her arm.

Running stores across the country were all hit very close to home by what happened April 15 in Boston — we’re a small family with many of our owners and employees, as well as customers gathering each year on Patriot’s Day weekend in Boston for a big family reunion. We’re proud of our colleagues at Marathon Sports, inspired by their heroics, and we’re joining together with other running stores to respond.

Together, members of the Independent Running Retailers Association are encouraging donations to One Fund Boston (onefundboston.org), the charity endorsed by the Boston Athletic Association to aid bombing victims. This is an opportunity to stand with the national running community and let the people of Boston know that we love their marathon as much as they do, that it’s much more than just a race, and that Boston is much more than just a city.

The following message was sent from Marathon Sports owner Colin Peddie to a group of community running store owners during last week’s lockdown:

“The response from around the country has been overwhelming. I cannot possibly respond to everyone in a way that puts the situation into context. Here are my thoughts and feelings of the last few days, as I reach out and thank my fellow runners, retailers, and vendors.

My first run since the attacks started innocently enough. It was me, the trail, and the sky above and no one else. I thought it was going to be a normal run with usual thoughts: How lucky I am to have found a passion that, given my ‘Type A’ personality (and then some) allowed me to dull the edge before beginning my day, that paid for college, and has allowed me to meet so many wonderful people. As I stepped onto the trail I immediately began to think of whether I was running away or running toward something. It was neither. I was in the moment and could not get away from what happened at the finish of the Boston Marathon. Whether I was running slow or fast there was no getting away from it. The emotions of the last 36 hours washed over me like Niagara Falls. How lucky was I to have left with my son 45 minutes before the explosion. That none of my staff was injured. That friends and family of our staff, while injured, were OK. It is truly a miracle that it was not worse. As my eyes watered I started to really let go. After tripping over a root and bouncing off a tree, I told myself to straighten up, as I was losing my vision from all the tears.

“Don’t be so soft,” I said to myself, trying to shake the emotions that were overwhelming me. “Get a hold of yourself!”

It was no use. I then convinced myself that it was OK to cry because I was happy and sad at the same time. Happy to have my health, my family safe, the Marathon Sports family uninjured and that it was not worse. Sad for those injured and who died, the BAA, the running community, and the city of Boston. Much has been taken away from us in Boston. Can we feel free to run without a hint of reservation because the unthinkable will occur again? The running community in Boston is going to pick itself up and run again. We are strong, Boston strong, and will once again feel the innocence of the run and what it means to each one of us. Just not now, not today or tomorrow, but soon. The healing has begun. The overwhelming support has been incredible. I thank you so much for the support as we begin to heal our company and the running community in Boston. Together we can and will overcome this senseless tragedy and become stronger and more connected then every before.”

I’ll go back to the 2014 Boston Marathon and I hope it isn’t about who will win. It should be a mutual celebration of runners and sports fans appreciating each other and celebrating events that challenge the human spirit. These events will not have stadiums or walls.

 

— Physician Mark Cucuzzella owns Two Rivers Treads in Shepherdstown

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