Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Boston Marathon: Sacred Ground

Exercise has been an integral part of my treatment for my mental illness. This started with running, training for my first half marathon in 2008. Running changed the way I saw myself, showed me that  I could be an advocate for my own healing, and helped me discover my own determination and power. So today when I heard about the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I was touched deeply.

My Dad, also a runner, helped me realize just what I was feeling when he commented that the bombing was like an invasion of our sacred space. Dad is a runner and while long distance running is not my main exercise these days, I have run two half marathons and I know the running community.

Running and training for a long race is a spiritual practice for many people. It can be a personal meditative practice, and it teaches you so much about yourself. You learn more about yourself running and training for a race than you ever expected to. Runners also train in a community. You train with people of all ages, races, and abilities and everyone cheers each other on. The person who runs a seven minute mile will help you train for a half marathon when you run a thirteen minute mile. You train for months together- through shin splints, freezing in the icy winter, and three hour weekend runs.

On race day, at the start of a race you all wait in anticipation; wondering if you have enough fuel and sharing stories about when your toenails fell off at the last race or you just missed your personal record by ten seconds. Spectators cheer you on whether you are the fastest runner, or one of the slowest. They wait on the route and tell you "You're almost there!," even though you have five more miles which for a runner is not "almost there," but it makes you smile and run faster anyway. At the end of the race, family, friends, and strangers are still cheering even after waiting there for you for hours.

The bombing was tragic for so many reasons, one of which was the deeper meaning of running, races, and the running community. Even the timing and placement of the bombs meant something if you know what typical paces are for runners and how family waits for people at the finish. When the bombs went off in Boston at the finish line, it was at the four hour mark when many of the older Boston qualifiers and some charity team runners would have been crossing the finish. When my husband and I ran the Disney half marathon in 2008, my Mom and Dad were waiting for us at the finish line with our four year old son who came out and crossed the finish line with us. I heard that an eight year old died in the explosion today.

Crossing the finish line with our son at the Disney Half Marathon.
The Boston Marathon course is sacred to many, even those of us who have never ran it, because we know what it means to get to that race. We know how much work it takes to train for and qualify. We know that the runners have discovered who they are through their training, they have made friends, and they have been supported by their families. For someone to run a long distance race, it takes a whole village of people to support them in that goal.

The race is sacred ground and the people (from runners, to spectators, to volunteers) are a beloved community.

Any tragedy like this is devastating and today my heart goes out to all of those who were affected by the bombings. The running community will never be the same. But we all know, runners keep going. They are a tight knit community who run in even the darkest hours whether that be literally, emotionally, physically, or today in the form of tragedy.

May the love of supportive community uphold the family and friends of those who have died and been injured (physically and mentally) by the bombings today. May our country heal after yet another tragedy. May our world one day be free from the separateness and hate which fuels such terrible acts.


Rev. Katie


  1. Wow! Thanks for the insight about the running community.

  2. I am with jacksgram. I did not know much about the community of runners. Your words help me understand a bit more about what people might have experienced in the aftermath of the Boston bombings. Perhaps you can talk in more detail about running, and how it has helped you heal from mental illness? I have always heard about "the long-distance runner"....and now, reading your blog entry, that phrase seems like such a beautiful metaphor for Life Itself.
    Blessings, Rev. Katie.

    1. I can work on a post about running. I have even preached on it before actually. Any exercise that is aerobic is great fro mental health, you need to be working enough to sweat though. So, walking is good, but you need to do it for a long time. You can get the same benefits with running and other exercise faster on days when you are pressed for time. I really think you need variety to keep good mental health. I will write about it soon. Thanks for asking!

  3. wow very informative article. I didn't know that running is an spiritual practice. thanks for sharing!
    spiritual insights