Tag Archives: boston

Resurrection Monday: Reflections on the 2014 Boston Marathon

It seemed a strange coincidence that the Boston Marathon fell immediately after Easter in 2014. My “patient partner” Erica, who has a rare disease and for whom I was running, lamented this scheduling confluence; coming to Boston to see me run the marathon and to be part of the special weekend of activities meant leaving her family and cherished traditions behind on this important holiday. I lamented it a little too. I love Easter; I love celebrating Christ rising from the dead and the new life offered to us as a result of him overcoming sin and death. After moving to Boston and being separated every year from my immediate family on this holiday, I came to find even more spiritual joy in this resurrection. The kind of pure bliss I often experience only while running.

But this year, I was distracted from Easter because I was utterly consumed by the marathon. In many ways, my life ever since that horrific moment in the 2013 Boston Marathon, when three people were killed and hundreds injured, had been leading up to this race. I knew immediately I would run again the following year, as did so many others. There was no choice, no other way to reclaim our race and all that it stands for, than to run it again.

We needed to cross the 2014 Boston Marathon finish line.
We needed to cross the 2014 Boston Marathon finish line.

A friend and teammate of mine has been injured (not due to the bombing) for over a year, and she had no desire to run the marathon again this year. While the majority of the marathon would be downright fun for me even though the final miles would be torturous and I’d have difficulty walking the next day, for her it would be nothing but extreme pain from start to finish. But she did it, even though it took her more than six hours, because leaving this race unfinished was not an option in her mind. After spending hours stranded at Boston College last year without a phone, wondering if her entire immediate family who had been at the finish line were still alive, and after all the blood, sweat, and tears she’d put into training and fundraising for this race two years in a row, she had earned that finish line. She needed to cross it.

We all needed to cross it.

The colors of this year's marathon jacket were controversial.
The colors of this year’s marathon jacket were controversial.

The colors of this year’s marathon jacket were controversial – a loud orange and electric blue. Adidas, the official clothing sponsor of the race, commented that they’d chosen these colors because they wanted to show that we had turned a corner. We weren’t enslaved to or dwelling on what had happened last year; we were moving on; we were victorious.

I was among those in the Boston running community who were disappointed with the jacket from the moment it was revealed. Some wanted to return to last year’s classic blue and yellow; others wanted red, white, and blue. Personally, I thought black and gold would strike the perfect chord of memory and hope. We wanted colors that were meaningful, not a garish or obscene flash of color that seemed chosen purely because Adidas wanted to be “avant garde.”

The Good Friday colors wave outside of Old South Church in Copley Square on the one-year anniversary of the bombings.
The Good Friday colors wave outside of Old South Church in Copley Square on the one-year anniversary of the bombings.

I hated the colors – until the day after Marathon Monday. I had refused to buy the official jacket but I still wanted some 2014 clothing, so I’d purchased a bright orange running T-shirt and a dark blue track jacket with marathon orange and blue stripes. I donned these items on Tuesday, looked at myself in the mirror, and surprisingly loved what I saw. I realized that I couldn’t have worn these colors two days ago. Not only because I don’t believe in wearing this year’s marathon apparel until after the race is done, but also because I wasn’t ready for the new colors until I’d crossed that finish line again. I needed to keep wearing the blue and yellow of Good Friday. But now, the head-turning orange and blue felt like Easter.

The race had been resurrected. With my own eyes, I’d seen Boylston Street alive once again – and this time, even more glorious and beautiful than ever before.

The race had been resurrected. With my own eyes, I'd seen Boylston Street come alive again.
The race had been resurrected. With my own eyes, I’d seen Boylston Street come alive again.

And so I realized how fitting it was for this year’s Boston Marathon to fall on Easter weekend. Compared to God’s grand plan of redemption for the entire human race, this redemption was perhaps small. But it was tangible and compelling to me. Boston talked about it ceaselessly the way Jerusalem talked about Christ’s death and then, the implausible claims that he had been seen alive again.

Could it really be? Could he have risen from the dead?

The images of the marathon finish line covered in smoke and blood are seared forever in my brain. But I’ve seen it come alive again. Resurrection is possible. New life, new hope, new glory are possible. I have seen it. This year, I celebrated Easter. And I celebrated Resurrection Monday. Thanks be to God.

The Easter colors of bright orange and blue stand out among the crowd.
The Easter colors of bright orange and blue stand out among the crowd.

The Quality of Light

We were trying to leave a work function a lot early, and a little gracefully, by sneaking out the back staircase. The event was in a two-level function room (one of those “innovative” designs that Kendall Square companies like so much); we were on the 10th floor while our coats were on the 11th. Conscientious people who actually wanted to hear the speakers were sitting on the open staircase in the center of the room, so rather than clamber over these rapt listeners, we figured we would climb one flight using the inconspicuous stairwell, grab our coats, and make our stealthy getaway on the elevator.

The flaw in the plan? The stairwell locks. And no amount of me waving my paper guest badge in front of the keypad would open it.

We made our way down ten flights of stairs, into the parking garage, back into the building lobby where we checked in once again with the strict security guards who demanded to see our valid IDs, and again into the function room to get our coats and leave – a little less early and lot less gracefully than we’d hoped.

Once we’d made it outside, I was in one of those silly moods (probably due to our breathless getaway) where anything that pops into my mind is likely to come out of my mouth unfiltered. For whatever reason, I blurted, “So I have this vague memory of talking about Parks and Recreation with two guys and a girl recently, but I cannot remember who the conversation was with!” Had my filters been working properly, I wouldn’t have made this comment since I doubted my friend could help me with this problem.

But it turns out that she could. “Is this a joke?” she asked. “That was at the brunch you had with me, Sean, and Kyle two days ago!”

“Oh yeah!” I exclaimed. “You see, I definitely have MS!”

“Memory loss is only one sign of MS. You could just as easily have early onset Alzheimer’s,” she responded helpfully.

Upon further reflection, I am giving myself a different diagnosis. I’ve noticed that I tend to spend enormous amounts of mental energy reliving moments and interactions that worry or upset me, as though by replaying them endlessly I might be able to change the ending. But just as Romeo and Juliet will always remain star-crossed lovers headed to their graves, my endless mental analysis is never going to change particular chapters of my life.

Perhaps the biggest downside of rehashing negative scenes is that it leaves very little time or space to relive the good ones – particularly those characterized by simple, quiet beauty that require no analysis. They just are.

Having forgotten the specific topics of conversation we’d had at brunch is, apparently, a deep compliment. If that brunch had been any better, I’d probably have forgotten it had happened at all.

But it’s not a compliment I want to keep giving because the world doesn’t supply an endless stream of affirmation, laughter, and simple goodness. It’s not because God isn’t good, but it’s because the world isn’t heaven. We only get little, often fleeting, glimpses of how things should be. I have to hold onto these moments consciously and remember the promise they hold, especially during the darker times in life.

A few weeks ago, I was walking along the Charles River, on Memorial Drive heading west. In typical fashion, I was charging ahead quickly, determinedly, even though I had nowhere in particular I had to be.

Up ahead of me, I saw a man who had stepped off the path and was staring past me at the sky. My eyes flickered toward his for just a second, but it was enough for him to stop me.

“Look at the quality of light behind you,” he said.

Turning in the direction he was facing, I saw the Boston skyline transformed to gold by the low angle of winter sunlight. It was beautiful. So beautiful that I didn’t even know how to tell the man what it meant to me that he’d gotten me to notice something I would otherwise have missed.

I want to remember those comfortable, fun conversations with friends, and I want to slow down and notice the beauty around me. I want to stop replaying scenes of darkness and instead focus on the quality of light that reflects God’s endless, pure, and perfect light.

And that’s really the point of this blog: to take note of the small moments, the music that touches something deep inside me, the articles that inspire me, the thoughts and realizations that sustain me for minutes or miles. When the days turn dark, I’ll have a record of the Light.

Boston Skyline Turned to Gold
Photo by Jessi Colund