Runners like to complete what they’ve started, as it’s an untidy diary with a distance undone. That’s why 55 members of the San Diego running and triathlon communities met yesterday morning at Ski Beach along Mission Bay to complete a journey they began but couldn’t complete the previous week.
Last Sunday they’d gathered in a much larger number to metaphorically “Run to Boston” in memory of and support for those who lost their lives, limbs, and innocence at the Boston Marathon finish line bombings on April 15th. That gathering in San Diego was mirrored throughout the nation and in many places around the world, for such is the fierce community spirit of runners. But it is a long 3043 miles from Ski Beach to Boylston Street in Boston, and they had only posted 2270.
“Thanks for coming out,” began Mike Rouse as the crowd gathered round. “Our goal is to finish getting to Boston. We only got to Ohio last week, and we don’t want to stop there.”
While Rouse was the spokesman, Stephen Johnson and Mike Daly were the two who came up with the idea.
“We were trying to figure something different to do than just a regular run,” explained Stephen Johnson. “But Mike Daly came up with the idea of attaining the mileage.”
These runs weren’t simply metaphorical, donations were also being taken to assist those whose lives had been unalterably changed by the heinous act in Boston.
“There have been 14 amputations as a result of the Boston attack,” Mike Daly told the crowd. “We will offer our support to them as best we can. The Challenged Athletes Foundation has already flown 30 people to Boston to begin the process of helping the people who were injured, help both mentally and physically. ”
Local race promoter Kathy Loper came to Ski Beach with newly printed “Boston Strong” on the back of two of her event shirts, the San Dieguito Half Marathon and the End of Summer Run. She passed out the shirts to any who wanted one, only asking that a donation be made to either the Challenged Athletes Foundation or the One Fund Boston.
“The early estimate of expenses that it will take to redo homes and cars, and buy prosthetics for each person who lost a limb is $220,000,” she explained. “One Fund Boston has already raised $26 million. This tragedy really united us, even more than 9-11.”
“I’ve qualified for Boston several times, but never run it,” said Justin Wolfe, who came to Ski Beach with his wife Laura and their seven-month old son Wyatt. “But I think it is really important that the numbers indicate a greater emphasis on being present at Boston next year, a show that resolve never changes in the running community. When bad things happen, the running community steps forward as an example of community to others.”
As the group took off on their 10 mile run, I was left to walk around Ski Beach waiting to record the mileage as the runners drifted back. As I walked I came upon one of the city’s Park and Rec workers cleaning the area in anticipation of the sun-worshipers and picnickers who would arrive after the morning marine layer had burned off around 10:30 – 11 a.m.
“Are you with the running crowd,” he asked as I waved hello.
“Yes, but I can only walk now. They are running for the Boston bombing victims.”
“I know. They were out here last week, too. It’s just sad that it takes an event like that to bring us together. Unity only seems to come in difficult times when it should be there all the time.”
The soft lapping waves kissed the shore as the morning marine layer enveloped the bay. A few resolute dog walkers made their way along the wide green lawns, but this early in the morning the only sound along the bay was the steady footfalls of the runners echoed by the rapid murmur of well-trained, emotion-filled hearts. Slowly, after an hour the runners began returning in twos and threes, each filling out a mileage form to add to the total, and write comments to “our friends in Boston.”
“Boston stay strong,” read one. “Runners all over the country have your back.”
“I’ll be back,” said another.
“Stay the course,” wrote a third.
In all, the runners amassed an additional 534.36 miles along the bay. Mike Rouse figured that the additional 28 members of the San Diego Track Club who were competing in the La Jolla Half Marathon up the coast would have joined in for the Ski Beach run, so he counted their 366.8 miles as well, to bring the day’s grand total to 911.16 miles. That made the two week “Run to Boston” total 3181.16 miles, enough not just to get to Boston, but to get back on the Mass Turnpike and make it to the New York state border.
The New York City Marathon may be larger, London richer and Chicago and Berlin faster, but there remains only one Boston in the marathon world. That sanctity was defiled April 15th by two young men who took the easy path to infamy. The resolve that defines the running community throughout the world refused to let that act be the final word on Boston 2013. They’ve been answering back ever since, and will continue to do so until April 21, 2014.
Runners like to finish what they start. But only 17,580 marathoners finished Boston this year before the bombs went off on Boylston Street. In last year’s high heat 21,554 came across the line, and in 2011, assisted by cool tailwinds, 23,879 completed their task. Yesterday in San Diego one community’s journey was metaphorically completed, but the spirit that began the “Run to Boston” has a long way to go. You can join the effort by ordering a “Boston Strong” tee shirt at KathyLoperEvents.com. Just make sure to contribute to the One Fund Boston or the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). The finish line beckons, but the road will always go on.