To Run in Boston

Courtesy of flickr user shoe the Linux Librarian.

Courtesy of flickr user shoe the Linux Librarian.

A couple of years ago, I made an early summer pilgrimage up to Boston from New York to see the editor at Da Capo Press who’d acquired “The Turk Who Loved Apples.” It was a routine trip, really—I’ve gone to Boston about once a summer for the past five years, usually just a one-night stopover on the way to Cape Cod or Maine. And part of that routine—part of the point of the pilgrimage—has always been to run: To run in Boston means something. This city and its marathon are, to a large extent, why we run; they’re the source of Americans’ love of running.

On that trip in 2011, however, I made a special stop: Marathon Sports, the runners’ shop that sits right at the finish line. There I picked up some New Balance Minimus shoes (size 10), and the next morning I went for a run along the Charles River in the brilliant sunshine. There’s nothing like it: It’s not the most challenging run in the world—it’s pretty flat, honestly—but it’s Boston (okay, Cambridge, too). I ran thinking of all the other great runners who’d done this route, who might be doing it right now, a mile ahead of me and moving faster than I ever will. To run in Boston, in the marathon or just along the river, is to share in their glory, if just a little bit.

It’s not just Boston for me. I’ve done the same thing at the Nike HQ in Beaverton, Oregon, and in Iten, Kenya, for Afar magazine. Each time there’s the buoyant feeling of running in a place that’s about running; each step, each heartbeat had a new purpose.

It’s Kenya I’m thinking about today, alongside Boston. For Iten, too, had had its share of violence—after the 2007 presidential elections there, inter-tribal fights broke out, people died (including a runner in nearby Eldoret), and foreign runners had to be evacuated. When I visited, in 2011, fear persisted that it all might happen again during this year’s elections. Luckily, it did not. The deaths and violence were remembered by those who survived, and everyone ran on.

Which is what, I hope, will happen in Boston. For a while, everyone will stop and try to come to terms with yesterday. Marathon Sports, which was at the epicenter of the blasts, will reopen. And then, slowly, everyone will put their shoes back on and head out the door, into the same sunshine (and snowstorms) they’ve faced down for decades. Runners just can’t stop running for long.

And to run in Boston will mean more than it ever has before.