I’ve never been to Boston. I don’t know anybody in Boston. But I know what it’s like to run a marathon, I know how it feels to come to the end of months of training and the feeling of finally crossing the finish line after 26.2 miles. 26.2 miles of pushing through pain, pushing through feeling sick, pushing past the wall and finally running over that finish line. 26.2 miles of being surrounded by cheering crowds, by countless other runners with countless different t-shirts showing charities they’re raising money for, friends they’re running in remembrance of. 26.2 miles of people handing out water and sweets and total strangers cheering you on – people you’ll never see again giving you that high-five that keeps you going, giving you their enthusiasm when all you want to do is stop and sit down for a while to recover. Marathon day is like no other. Marathon day is when people come together, when it doesn’t matter if you agree with somebody’s politics or taste in music – what matters is that you are all there, you’re there to do good and to set a personal achievement and to support each other. And when you finally reach the finish line, surrounded by others who share your feelings of elation and joy – well, it’s a feeling unlike any other. Marathon day has a party atmosphere, a celebration atmosphere. And I simply cannot imagine what yesterday must have been like. The bombs went off at around the equivalent time that I reached the final stretch and the finish line last year in London. My heart goes out to everyone there. Sport brings people together. Sport unites. And to have that destroyed – it’s unimaginable and makes me sick to my stomach.
But yesterday’s events have given me hope. The #bostonhelp twitter handle, where complete strangers offered each other food, money, phones, a place to spend the night. The marathon volunteer team that sorted through tens of thousands of luggage bags to try and get runners’ phones and wallets back to them. The people on the internet offering families outside Boston their air miles so they could fly in to be with their loved ones. The spectators that hurdled over the stands to help the volunteers clear debris. The people thousands of miles away ordering food in to those hosting strangers for the night. A Google doc was set up for people to offer places to stay – within a couple of hours over a thousand Boston citizens had signed up to host runners and spectators who couldn’t get to their hotels or their airport or even their phones. Cafés giving away food, letting people in to use their wifi. Human beings, strangers to each other, offering everything they have to try and help other strangers who needed it.
People can come together, people can be amazing, and when something like this happens it’s the people who don’t sit around throwing blame, but who get out there, or even just help from in front of their computers thousands of miles away, that show what people are truly like – and that there is good in the world, and there is hope.
All my thoughts are with Boston this morning. And I’m full of thankfulness for the simple power of people.