Yesterday, my husband and I did something we've never done in all our years as runners. We took our kids to a spot near mile 24 of the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon and we created our first ever cheering section. See, usually my husband and I are participants in any road race we attend. We leave the cheering to others. We appreciate them, love their signs and crazy costumes (I still laugh when I think about the dude with the unicorn helmet dancing to the Harlem Shake).
Three weeks ago I was a nervous spectator at the Boston Marathon, cheering for my husband and celebrating that a dream of mine had come true when I had to chance to meet Kathrine Switzer. And then our weekend of celebration came to an abrupt end when we learned of the bombings.
I was scared, just like everyone else. How would these bombings change my running world?
A few people said to me later, "Good thing your kids weren't with you."
They were right, I was very grateful my children weren't there. But I was also mad. Mad at the fact that something I love so much - the quiet tension at the starting line, the thrill during the race when you hit your goal splits right on, the endorphin-powered finish line parties - would be something I was scared to share with my kids. We didn't want them to be scared and we didn't want to be scared ourselves.
My husband and I also didn't want other runners - novices or veterans - to be scared.
It was mostly spectators who were hurt in Boston. And we felt, as runners, it was time to pay it forward. Instead of running, we became official spectators.
The kids didn't know what to expect but after the runners started high-fiving them they had a wonderful time. Our five year-old loved saying "Come on, start jogging, you can walk tomorrow!" and eating the Gatorade chews. Our three year-old was a hit as Batman and our eight year-old kept the vuvuzela loud and strong.
It was so much fun we already have plans for next year's cheering section.
This was cathartic for me. Once again running gave me priceless gifts. Pride in my city, pride in my children as they honored these runners nearing the end of massive challenge. Inspiration and faith in myself and in the world around us.
I hope that in some small way, by making these runners smile and laugh, we were able to say thank you for all that running has given our family.