by John Pohl
I looked up and saw two elderly ladies sitting on a Boston rooftop. They were drinking beer and waving the American flag. I made eye contact with one of them and she moved her lips to say “You are amazing; you can do it.” This was at mile 17 of the Boston Marathon I had run a few years back. There were spectators stacked 10 deep and shoulder to shoulder along both sides of the road. They were high-fiving myself and other runners, offering fruit and cheering — they were with me. I heard my feet hitting the ground with each step, but I was floating. There were hundreds of thousands of spectators covering every inch of the entire 26.2 mile course. Running is special. Running any marathon is extraordinary. Running the Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of any runner’s dreams. It is the oldest, most prestigious race in the world. To put it into perspective for non-runners, crossing the finishing line at the Boston Marathon is like Christmas morning. It is winning the lottery and it is getting your first job.
As I watched the video of the bombings at the Boston Marathon a few days ago, like many of us, I was shocked, saddened and — yes — violated. It is always the same questions people have: is there no place left in this country where we can be safe? Do we now have to be scared to simply run? I am a husband, father, grandfather, business man, Webster University student and I am a runner. I have run too many years to count now — it is simply what I do when I am not being everything else in this world.
These fools who set off two bombs that killed three people and injured another 176 have not only destroyed families, but they have taken a part of me and stomped on it. I pray for these families and our world. These cowards have ripped my heart out and left me and others dazed and confused. Running to me was therapy, meditation, peaceful, healthy and it has been my passion. It was my escape. What right do these fools have in testing my will and spirit? They not only took lives and left many with legs missing; they made what was supposed to be a crowning day of achievement into a horrific memory.
I am sick to death of memorials for these senseless attacks. Now Boston can join Oklahoma City, Newtown Elementary School and 9/11 with a memory that no one wants.
Some days all I want to do is get out of bed, put on my running shoes and go. I don’t want to think about all my troubles or worries of the world. Running does something to me that is almost indescribable — it is pure joy. I want to do it in peace. These terrorists have hit me with a low blow.
As I approached the finish line in Boston on that glorious day, the crowd noise was deafening. I was thrilled and elated. I was in the home stretch of one of the greatest days of my life. I can only imagine what Monday’s finishers heard when the bombs went off: screams of fright, pain and shock. There is nothing sacred anymore — nothing is off limits.