Why we are all Boston

I’m very sorry for not writing for a while. It’s now less than a week until the London Marathon, and it should be a time for mounting excitement (and nerves). Instead, like much of the world, I’ve spent today fixed to footage of the bombings at yesterday’s Boston Marathon.

It’s hard to express anything about what happened without resorting to the stock phrases that appear whenever an act of violence like this occurs. Senseless particularly springs to mind. Somehow, this seems even more senseless than usual. It has had a really profound impact.

Part of this is to do with how easy it is to relate to the people in the pictures we’ve seen on the news all day. Either running or supporting, I’ve been at six marathons in the last two years. I know how the people in those pictures were feeling seconds before the explosion; the euphoria at having the finish line in sight, the carnival atmosphere of the day. Close up, in the pictures of the finish line, you can’t even tell it’s Boston. It could have been Brighton last Sunday, could be London this Sunday.

But it’s more than the familiarity of the scene and the people in it. 25,000 runners had their own stories of determinations and sacrifice. Half a million spectators were cheering on family and friends and rooting for runners they didn’t know. Spectators make the race. I’ve never failed to run a marathon in a time faster than I was expecting, and I can’t attribute it to anything other than the phenomenal support from the crowds.

As a “cheerer” you care about everyone that passes. You call out their names and it makes you stupidly happy when they smile back. When you see someone flagging, you share in their pain, you genuinely will them on. It’s enjoyably strange – for the brief moment when someone passes you, you are entirely emotionally invested in that complete stranger’s life. The boundaries come down and there’s no real difference between you. Yesterday, half a million people felt that. The Boston Marathon – like all marathons – is a rare mass demonstration of affection and goodwill, of indiscriminate love.

What’s so heinous is that somebody was there; somebody felt that, and they blew it up.

We were talking in the office earlier about what effect the bombings might have on the London Marathon this weekend. I’m really grateful for the “show-must-go-on” attitude from the event organisers, the police and everyone involved. But will people be scared? Will the atmosphere diminish because the vital spectators who make the marathon what it is stay away?

I don’t think so. On Sunday, not only will hundreds of thousands of us line the streets to race or to support, and care about each others’ stories, the causes we’ve chosen to run for and our triumph or disappointment at the end, but we’ll be thinking of everyone caught up in Boston. We know them, the barriers are down and we love them too.

In other updates…

Fundraising – £1,265.17
Thank you so much to everyone who has sponsored me, all my wonderful work colleagues for baking cakes and taking part in our Grand National sweepstake last weekend to raise funds and to everyone who is following this blog. I promised I’d make a donation on behalf of each of you, and here it is: www.virginmoneygiving.com/AlessandraMartines

Mileage – 705 (398 cycling, 307 running, swimming, other)
Yes, I’m still under. And I’m on holiday in Mexico for two weeks after the marathon and don’t intend to do much. But I’m not worried, more certain that I’ll catch up – that’s what summer’s for after all.

The big day
Quite a lot of people have asked me how I’m feeling and I’m not really sure. Is “I don’t know” a satisfactory answer? I would love to beat my PB (03:19:37) but I know it will be by a very narrow margin if I can do it at all. I managed 20 miles in just over 2.5 hours a few weeks back, which bodes well. (This was part of the Hyde Park 20 Miles Marathon Prep Race – www.theraceorganiser.com which I would definitely recommend. It was well organised with a great pace team who were spot on despite gale force winds and driving sleet.) Anything can happen on the day though. Let’s say I’d be thrilled with a PB but not too unhappy with something a bit less….