In eleven days, my best friend will be running her first marathon. So will a former coworker of mine. So will roughly 25,000 other people. I've been planning to make my posters, strap on my Chacos, and wait at the finish line for months now. Last year I watched my friend finish her first half marathon. I used my packing-tape-laminated poster as an umbrella as it rained. Why would I not go cheer her on again?
Two days ago, bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people died, with many, many more injured.
The news coverage, Facebook postings, and Tweets have been all over this event. They keep saying things like "Why hurt people at a marathon?" "Look at all the people who ran toward the bombs to help" and "Those who cheer on the runners were the ones hurt."
The spectators who stood near the finish line were hurt--were killed. And while I'm impressed and grateful for the wave of positivity pouring out of the American people, I can't help to wonder selfishly, Do I still want to go cheer for my friends?
Many runners have already stated their intent to run next weekend. There are already blogs and tweets about how they won't back down, how terrorists (or crazies) can't break their spirit. But what about us spectators? What about those of us who can't run the length of Wal-Mart let alone a whole marathon? We don't have to be there. We don't have to prove anything to ourselves. We don't have to reach a goal toward which we've literally been running for several months. We just wanna watch.
So what makes me care to put myself in harm's way to cheer on these runners?
I guess it must be love.
Because you see, despite the extra security guards, despite the precaution, despite the runner's attitude, all hell might break out again. But I'm still going to show up. I'm still going to make my poster, strap on my Chacos, and cheer on my friends. I'm still going to put myself in the position of expressing my love toward my friends and the strangers who run with them. Each of these runners has been working hard to reach this goal. Each of them has been sacrificing their bodies, social lives, and diets to prepare for the long road ahead of them. But so have we--the spectators who plan on watching them. We've been preparing right along side them.
We've marked out our calendars, bought our craft supplies, and set our alarms. We've sacrificed our social lives for them. And we've sacrificed our diets as we carb load with them the night before. The runners may have an unmatched spirit, but those who watch them, we have a spirit too. We're the Robin to their Batman, the Vice to their President, the stage manager to their lead actress. We're a part of this too.
We want to see success, we want to witness the finish line. We want to watch our friends push to the end and achieve that for which they worked so hard. Because we love them.
And so in eleven days, despite my fear, I will let love triumph and watch the marathon. In person. At the finish line. Poster in hand.
I will defeat my own inner terrorist by being a very real, very present expression of love.