Running is Flying

Terror has visited my tribe.

Attacked at its most hallowed event, my tribe responded with all of the grace, solidarity and heroism I would have expected, had I somehow been able to foresee a tragedy like this coming.

My tribe – a tough, gritty group of human beings – is unlike any other I know of. Fanatically democratic, meritocratic and individualistic, they revel in coming together by the thousands to “race,” knowing that none of them have any chance of winning. And then many stick around to cheer until the last runner crosses the line, because our sport is often more about completion than competition.

We train – mostly in solitary conditions – for months to run an obscenely long distance in three or four hours, paying for the pleasure, and often we are doing it just to qualify for a chance to do it again under still more difficult circumstances, at an even higher price.

We are not rational.

We are not normal.

We are The Tribe Known as Runners. And the tragedies of the past week have shown our tribe’s true colors in a way that makes me infinitely proud. In the face of mayhem and carnage, many did not hesitate to jump in and act as ad hoc EMTs. After running 26.2 miles, many ran 2 more miles from the finish line in order to donate blood. And many wore their blue and yellow marathon jackets all week, to demonstrate their solidarity and force of will.

Stephen Colbert probably put it best:

“Here’s what those cowards really don’t get: They attacked the Boston Marathon, an event celebrating people who run 26 miles on their day off, until their nipples are raw – for fun. And when those bombs went off, there were runners, who after finishing a marathon, kept running for another two miles to the hospital to donate blood.”

Our tribe has no national, ethnic or linguistic borders. No limitations based on age or sex or ambulatory prowess. Hell, you can even be a member of this tribe if you are in a wheelchair or have one or more prostheses. In fact, when it comes down to it, there is only one qualification for membership in the tribe of runners: desire.

I am not a great runner. Hell, I’d be hard pressed to even say I am a good runner. But our tribe has no skill requirement. You call yourself a runner? Fine, you’re in.

Sure, Boston has a qualification requirement. If it didn’t, there’d be like 2.5 million people trying to squeeze up Heartbreak Hill on Patriot’s Day. And that wouldn’t be any fun; there’d be no one watching.

Personally, I’m so slow I’ll never be able to qualify for Boston, unless they create a Aging Clydesdales category. But that’s ok. Because I have run Boston vicariously for many years. I watch members of my tribe run it, I hear stories about it, I visualize what it would be like, and through the mystical powers of imagination and tribal culture, I experience it, I know it, I enjoy it.

So, when the Boston Marathon was attacked last Monday, like members of my tribe all over the world, I felt it deeply and profoundly. Yet I also knew that we would run through the pain, that we would recover from this injury and come back stronger.

That’s just how my tribe is.

A Few Words about Goals

January 15, 2013

Running may be my fitness program of choice, I may even love doing it, but I still need motivation to keep the wheels turning, to get up and out the door at 6 am when it’s 20 degrees outside. So, like a lot of runners, I set goals. Sometimes they are pretty general, like running [...]

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10 Holiday Gift Ideas for Runners

November 3, 2012

If you have a runner in your life, you may be wondering what they want for Christmas, Channukah, Solstice, or Runner’s Sunday (which is every Sunday). Runners can be picky, by which I mean they like to pick out their own earbuds, wicking shirts and underwear. But there are plenty of other thoughtful gifts they will [...]

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Best Running Documentaries of All Time

July 15, 2012

Ok, my first post in this realm focused on dramatic films. This one survey documentaries. The ratings are of course completely arbitrary (on a 5-star scale), and are listed in alphabetical order. Run for Your Life (★★★★) - 2008 – A superb documentary about Fred Lebow and the history of the NYC Marathon. We see what an amazing [...]

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Best Running Movies of All Time

June 29, 2012

I love running, and I love movies. So, for the past few years, I have been rooting around, looking for movies with a running connection, whether dramatic or documentary. The only requirement was that the movie had to be obtainable. And in English (or with subtitles). This first post collects my ratings and short comments [...]

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Do the Math: Running Adds Years to Your Life

May 4, 2012

A Danish study published today shows men can add 6.2 years (and women 5.6 years) to their life if they jog 1-2.5 hours per week. Let’s do the math. 6.2 years = 54,348.0392 hours. If you run 2 hours a week, that’s 104 hours per year. Say you start running at 35 and run for [...]

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Don’t Look Here (There)

April 27, 2012

Nothing makes you miss running more than getting injured. RiF, page 10 After you’ve been running for awhile, you discover a very simple truth: the problem is never where you think it is. Exhibit A. About a year ago, I was sidelined for several months by persistent achilles pain in both feet, which I had [...]

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