The runners from the Boston Marathon — both those who finished and those who were diverted because of the tragic explosions April 15 are on my mind. May their future runs be times of comfort.
I’m sure Boston is on the minds of several runners getting ready for the Medical Mutual Glass City Marathon ON April 28. I hope that, as they train, they honor the thoughts and emotions they carry. Perhaps some will dedicate their finishes to those whose lives were changed — or lost — in Boston.
Running is a spiritual exercise as well as a physical routine. When I was preparing for marathon runs, having a competitive time was not my goal because simply finishing was enough. The long run is a religious journey, a kind of moving meditation. Training is as much for centering the head as conditioning the body, but the routine can take a person even further.
“The first half hour of my run is for my body. The last half hour, for my soul,” George Sheehan wrote in the late 1970s book Running & Being. He called that time after the first 30 minutes, the third wind, “which … has to do with the mind and the spirit, with joy and peace, with faith and hope, with unity and certainty.”
In a time of tragedy, exercise keeps the mind active and the heart beating, but running also provides the opportunity to reflect on what’s around you and what’s within you.
I processed some of the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, during my runs in Brooklyn, New York’s Prospect Park. I had finished my first New York City Marathon in 1999 and I was planning to run it a second time in 2001.
On my daily three miles or longer runs in the park during September, smoke was still rising from the collapsed World Trade Center towers and the distinctive aroma of incomprehensible incineration was in the air. I ran with thoughts of the people lost, of so many survivors coping, of New Yorkers coming together in grief and in support.
A long run gives you the chance to go inward. I wondered whether to take part in the upcoming marathon. Some people who run for more than athletic purposes, including many runners who have the Glass City Marathon coming up, are probably wondering about their relationships to races. That final mile will be tougher with the finishers thinking of the loss and devastation from the Boston Marathon bombing.
In the Glass City, run easy and run for fun, I say, but also pay some attention to what comes to the surface in your third wind. Follow that soul that George Sheehan wrote about.
The 9/11 tragedy was a very tender part of my being in 2001. Nearing marathon day, I wasn’t ready for a community event. When I had a slight leg injury, I chose to postpone running the marathon a year; in 2002, I finished with my best, but still slow, time.
I ran and finished one more marathon in New York, in 2005. I’m no longer a dedicated runner — health issues got in the way of my running and meditation. I still wonder whether I’ll run again. If I do, I expect it will be for fun, not to take part in races. My goal will be to reach the soul again by way of the third wind.
Contact TK Barger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6278.