The 26th magical mile

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Tragedy has forever changed all finish lines by making them even more magical

By Stevie Lowery

Before I wrote this column Monday evening, I had to go for a run.
I had been sitting at my desk all afternoon and evening reading reports about the explosions that killed at least two people and injured hundreds of others near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. I held back tears as I viewed images taken by photographers of the gruesome scene, the sidewalks covered in blood.
Initially, I thought it had to be a hoax.
Why would anyone do something like this at one of our oldest, most prestigious running events?
It was unthinkable.
As we all learned more details about the attack, it started to get personal.
After all, the victims… they were my friends.
They were my family.
They were my fellow runners.
You see... there is a special camaraderie among runners. No matter how fast or slow… experienced or inexperienced… we share a common bond… a brotherhood of sorts. And once you’re in the club, you’re always in the club. Even when you’re injured, it doesn’t matter. The bond between runners never fades. It never dies.
Once a runner… always a runner.
And Monday was a big day for all runners.
The historic 26.2-mile journey in Boston is something all runners dream about, and even though some of us aren’t fast enough to compete in the race, we cheer our running family on. It’s part of being a runner. It’s what we do.
We anticipate seeing the lightning fast times for the first men and women finishers, and we celebrate the success of every single runner that crosses that finish line. Because, as any runner will tell you, 26.2 miles is an amazing accomplishment. For me, because of my own fears and insecurities, that accomplishment has felt out of reach. That is, until Monday.
Monday morning, while I waited for the Boston Marathon results, I discussed with my coworkers my desire to possibly run the Chicago Marathon in October. I had made a promise to a dear friend that I would run a marathon with her. On Derby day of last year, my friend, Sarah Beyer, was hit by a drunk driver. She was seriously injured in the crash. But, like every runner I know, she fought back. She refused to quit. She endured months of physical therapy and, I’m overjoyed to report that she just ran the Papa John’s 10-miler on April 6.
She’s back!
And, I still have a promise to keep.
I promised Sarah, in writing, that when she recovered I would train and run a marathon with her.
“I pray my friend makes me keep my promise,” I wrote in the Enterprise. “It's something I've always been afraid of doing, to be honest, but my fear of running 26.2 miles pales in comparison to my fear of her not surviving or ever running again. Stay strong, Sarah Beyer, you have many more marathons ahead of you. I want to join you for at least one.”
Well, guess what... Sarah is running the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13.
And after what happened on Monday at the Boston Marathon, I feel even more inspired to train and run my first marathon. Because, you see, runners… we don’t back down or quit when things get tough. We don’t let pain or fear or exhaustion keep us from reaching our goal. And, we certainly don’t let the senseless acts of terrorists steal our love and passion for running.
I’ve never had the joy of experiencing the 26th mile of a marathon, but my friends who have said it’s magical. One of my running friends, who just happens to live in Chicago, said it best Monday when he wrote, “Today's tragedy has forever changed all finish lines... but only by making them even more magical than they already were! Runners unite!”
There is no doubt in my mind that runners across the country and world were busy Monday evening signing up for their next race… their next marathon… their next adventure.
And, I guarantee you most runners weren’t able to finish the day Monday without going out for a run. I know I couldn’t.
No matter what life throws at us, at the end of the day, we’re a running family.
And, together, we will keep moving forward.
We will keep running.
And we will keep crossing the finish line.