Friday, April 26, 2013

The Joy of Running Together

When I heard about the Boston Marathon Bombing, I was preparing to travel to Spokane Washington for a conference. If you remember, I was struggling with the intersection of being a New Englander, my professional development, and being a runner. Obviously, I felt lost and confused. I struggled over how to process the various feelings I was having. And I was glued to the news.

Some of it was good, but the majority of the news reports that were coming through were partial, or just really off base. And social media websites like facebook were spinning into a frenzy about what kind of retribution would be acceptable in the fact of such an atrocious crime. People were spewing hatred and vitriol left and right. It was overwhelming. And absolutely heartbreaking. What made it worse was that I was in Washington state, while my husband and the rest of my support system was in South Florida.

I even developed an honest-to-goodness eye twitch that wouldn't seem to go away. That was stuff straight out of Lifetime Movies. Yet it was happening. I felt alone, like I was drowning in frigid waters.

I am someone who deeply believes that violence and hatred are cyclical. I deeply understand that people are angry and hurting after such an atrocious crime... I'm hurting and angry too. Yet I also realize that at some point we have to stop the cycle. If violence and hatred only snowball to more violence and hatred, a little love and compassion could go a long way.

It is easier said than done. And as I write this, I am sure people are rolling their eyes saying I am an idealist thinking we should respond to the perpetrators of such heinous and cowardly crimes with compassion and love. Crap, I'm not even sure I feel love or compassion in my heart right now.

Amidst all my stress and anger and discomfort and hurt, I decided I will not be part of the ongoing problem that allows anger and hatred to breed. If I can't be compassionate (right now), I can certainly bite my tongue and not feed into the system that becomes an overwhelming avalanche toward violence. I will turn off the TV and withdraw from consuming too much media that may only fuel by hurts and frustrations.

Unplugging definitely helped alleviate some of my tensions. That dreaded eye twitch went away... but I was still sad. I needed to grieve. Properly grieve. Thankfully I found the perfect opportunity.

While driving to lunch with my travel companion through downtown Spokane, I screamed at her to stop the car.

I had seen what looked like a bunch of cardboard cutouts of runners lining the sidewalk, wearing poster-boards and surrounded by running shoes and flowers. I had to get out and investigate this scene a little more closely.

And I realized that they weren't cardboard cutouts at all. The park was actually Riverfront Park, which has partnered with the Spokane Arts Commission to house 21 semi-permanent sculptures.

What I had thought was an entirely impromptu vigil with cardboard cutouts, was actually an impromptu vigil at a sculpture called The Joy of Running Together, which was installed in 1984 by David Govedare. This sculpture, which consists of 40 freestanding iron running figures in all stages of racing, was commissioned to commemorate the Annual Spokane Bloomsday Run and was installed at what would be the finish line when the race is taking place. According to the Historical Spokane website, the installation near what would be the finish-line was not a coincidence... It was a conscientious decision made with the hopes that it would provide encouragement to the runners in the Bloomsday Run.

Looking all the sneakers, and flowers and posters which had been left behind in the wake of the Boston Bombing, I realized that not only was this sculpture providing encouragement, but it was also providing solace to those who were grieving.

And in those few moments, I had the chance to properly grieve.

Thank you to David Govedare for giving me a way to grieve.


  1. "I am someone who deeply believes that violence and hatred are cyclical."

    THIS! Yes! I have had to try to focus on all the positive and non-hateful things going on related to Boston (and there are so many beautiful, amazing things, dedicated runs, etc) and turn off the hatred and coverage that was doing NOTHING to help anyone. I don't know exactly how to make the world more peaceful, but I know that HATING at all certainly won't get us there! I totally get it!

  2. I love that you found that peaceful place. I tried to avoid all of the negative talk too. It seems to be everywhere! Too much speculation...assumptions...sickening!

    1. it was really powerful. I've never had quite that kind of experience before.