Photo Credit: Courtesy Sasha Emmons
The New York marathon was always one of our family's favorite days of the year. The route through Brooklyn was just a few blocks from our apartment, an easy distance to drag our homemade signs and cow bell. Our kids would sit on the curb or on shoulders, enjoying the special intimacy of seeing the participants of a major sporting event up close, cheering on Purple Shirt Guy or a woman wearing a tutu. Although it was a thrill seeing the elite runners zoom by, my favorite people to watch were always the ones without golden feet, the ones you could tell were powered more by guts than speed -- the ones that would have been crossing the finish line fours hours and change in, when the bombs in Boston went off.
My husband ran the New York marathon in 2001, not even two months after September 11, when fears were rampant that another terrorist attack would occur. When I found him afterward, we hugged in tearful relief that he had finished, but even more so that the race, with its somber tributes to the fallen, had gone off without a hitch. Five years and one kid later, I brought our toddler daughter Chloe along to cheer him on in the 2006 marathon, surprising him with a "My daddy runs marathons" T-shirt at the finish. By his last marathon, in 2007, the threat of terrorism felt far away. He ran it in 4:06, puking through the last two miles.
Even when Daddy wasn't running, we always watched. I wanted my kids to see what hard work can lead to. I wanted them to see that you can push yourself to do something human bodies are not really meant to do. I wanted them to see you can mind-over-matter yourself through blisters, cramps, chafed thighs. You can even run while barfing. I wanted them to understand you can make a stranger's day by giving them a high-five. I wanted them to feel that even in a big city, people can come together for one purpose and make the world feel small.
And, despite fears that will now be forever mingled with any marathon I watch, I'd still want them to learn those lessons today.
We don't live in New York anymore, but if I get a chance to take my kids to see a big city marathon again -- my brother's qualified for Boston -- I'll take it. No matter what, runners will run on, and I want my kids there to see it.
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