My Boston Marathon
|Robyn at the finish: "A simple race reminds us that we have much more in common than we have dividing us."|
Robyn Stencil works in our Tour Operations department, guides Rick Steves tours — and loves to run in marathons. A few days ago she ran, for her first time, in the Boston Marathon. Here is her account:
On April 15th, I shared the morning with 23,000 people I had never met, yet weren't quite strangers. We were united through a common experience — running the 117th Boston Marathon. Standing in line, waiting for the yellow school buses that would shuttle us to the starting line in Hopkington, I met a woman from North Carolina who shared my middle name. Behind me was a man from Port Townsend, whose father, it turns out, attended the same elementary school as my namesake. Four people whose lives had never crossed, but whose paths were meant to converge.
Along the course, I shared half a mile with two men from Germany, speaking their language; I witnessed, awestruck and inspired, as vision-impaired runners navigated the course, elbows linked with their designated guides; watched a sea of runners throw their arms up to the Isley's Brother's "Shout"; experienced the eagerness of the girls at Wellesley begging for a kiss; and remembered the words my cousin, my own personal cheerleader, said to me as I left the hotel room before the sun was up:
"Whatever you do, don't stop running."
For 26.2 miles, spectators fueled my pace, offering physical and emotional refreshment, encouragement, and signs ranging from Biblical to perverse, while memories of the send-off from my co-workers in Edmonds work beat a rhythm on the pavement "left foot, right foot, and a Guinness at the Finish."
When I crossed the mat at 2:03 p.m., I wasn't just a runner from Seattle, I was part of something bigger — I was part of Boston, part of a chorus whose harmony for a cohesive world echoed off surrounding skyscrapers. In return, Boston was a part of me; part of the sweat on my face, the dirt on my shoes, and the computers and cell phones of families and friends tracking me at home.
Walking back to the hotel, I commented on how amazing it is to think a simple race can bring thousands of people together from all over the world, uniting us all in a spirit of compassion, support, and enthusiasm. A simple race reminds us that we have much more in common than we have dividing us. If only I knew how prophetic that statement would become.
I was safe in my hotel room when the news broke of the explosion 50 minutes later; shock, confusion, anger, and disbelief followed. For the next two hours we hunted for news, answers, any information that would explain who would purposefully hurt people, and why. I thought about everyone who was a part of this day, participating as citizens not just of the country they represented, but of the world. I thought about the injustice of how one person's actions could inflict such horror.
The bombs may have taken lives and limbs, but they did not take the spirit of what the day represented: unity. My heart goes out to those affected by the brutality of the day, to the runners who spent hours and miles training for a day that is now marred by tragedy, and to the citizens of Boston who wanted nothing more than to show their pride for their city. But I refuse to let the cowards responsible take away my spirit, or the community the day created.
In the aftermath of these terrible events, the love I have received from friends, family, coworkers, former tour members and perfect strangers is what keeps me going; what holds my faith in humanity. The acts of first responders, fans, and runners were nothing less than heroic. It is only appropriate that on April 15th, Patriot's Day, the city of Boston showed the world once again they would not be shattered, they refused to be ruled by an outsider. They showed that no one, and no act of cowardice, can extinguish the flame of global citizenship this day, this event ignites. Perhaps executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, Thomas Grilk, put it best:
"Boston is strong. Boston is resilient. Boston is our home."
With our help, with our strength, and with our memories, Boston, and all it represents, will overcome this. Boston will never stop running.
As for me, I'll get back on the unicorn. All in for Boston 2014!
Learn more about Robyn in an interview about her experience working for Rick Steves.