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Why There Will Always Be Another Finish Line After Boston

Betty Wong crosses the finish line at the More/FITNESS Women's Half Marathon. FITNESS Editor-in-Chief Betty Wong crosses the finish line at the More/FITNESS Women's Half Marathon on Sunday, April 14, 2013. Photo by John Herr.

The day before the Boston Marathon, I crossed the finish line of the More/Fitness Women’s Half-Marathon in New York City’s Central Park. About a month before Boston, I had crossed the finish line of the Los Angeles Marathon. Both times my tired legs somehow found the energy to surge through the last few hundred yards. With arms held high, a smile on my face and the cheering crowds drowning out whatever playlist has been pumping for hours through my earbuds, something magical always propels me forward as I run toward joy, exhilaration and complete satisfaction.

Crossing the finish line brings relief, pride and bliss, and there’s never a moment you want it more than that last .1 of a 13.1-mile half or the final .2 of a 26.2-mile marathon. On Monday, thousands of runners in Boston had that same drive and focus shattered by two cruel, horrific bombs.

The blasts shook them out of their thoughts of elation, of accomplishment, of post-race celebrations over beer and burgers. In seconds, their hearts went from swelling with gratitude and love for family and friends who had supported them on race day and through months of training, to pounding with fear and panic over when and how they would reunite with their loved ones, if ever.

I was not in Boston on Monday, but from my desk at Fitness magazine, I was there in spirit. That morning, still high on endorphins from the wonderful race we hosted the day before with New York Road Runners, I wished the runners in Boston the same exuberance, strength and determination that were so palpable from the women runners at our half-marathon. I excitedly logged onto the Boston Athletic Association’s website so I could track the progress of my friend and Fitness colleague Amy Macauley as she ran a strong pace through every split of her 26.2-mile trek into downtown Boston. When her final finish time popped up on my screen, I was thrilled and elated, just as I’d been the morning before.

News broke of the explosions less than an hour later. My heart sank for Amy, for the thousands of runners, spectators, organizers and volunteers. How could a day meant to be a celebration of all that is good about the human spirit—from the runners whose athleticism, dedication and grit are so deserving of admiration to the spectators who stand on the sidelines for hours hoping to catch a glimpse of their loved one and scream encouraging hoots and hollers at the sea of strangers running by—go from so right to so wrong?

Those two bombs placed in such close proximity to the finish line were intended to maim and kill, to stop us in our tracks. They robbed us of precious lives and limbs, and my heart breaks for those innocent spectators who were hurt and for their grieving families. The crimes took away our moments of celebration, but they did not end our journey. As any runner will tell you, every race is measured in much more than miles and the time it takes to cross the finish line. Whether in your training you went from fat to fit, weak to strong, doubter to believer, the course keeps going long after the race is over. The bombs in Boston will never take away our collective will to move forward, to sprint toward what is good in life. Already thousands on Facebook have committed to running 26.2 miles in the coming days, weeks and months to honor Boston. We run because we have to. We run for those who can’t. We run because that is how we keep reaching, growing, healing. There will continue to be many more start lines to join, and this weekend our thoughts will be with marathoners lining up in London, as they will be thinking of their running comrades in Boston. In tragic times like this, we simply keep moving forward. We run for joy. We run for good health. We run for peace. That is how we finish strong.

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