On dreams and Boston

If you’re reading this, by now you know that lives were lost today at the Boston Marathon. Survivors’ lives were changed, and some of them will forever bear horrible scars. I spent much of Monday trying to make sure my Boston-Marathon-running friends were OK (all are now accounted for) and trying to find out what had happened (violence happened, that’s what).

Until the explosions, I was trying to decide whether to back out of the Pittsburgh Marathon in three weeks, since I don’t know if I can beat my previous best time and I could save a lot of money. Now, I know: I’m running Pittsburgh, and I’m doing it to the best of my ability. Why? Because lives are meant to be lived and dreams are meant to come true.

The Boston Marathon is a dream in every definition of the word. It’s the oldest marathon in the United States, in a city that holds some of our nation’s greatest history. The race is held on Patriot’s Day, an official Massachusetts holiday commemorating the start of the American Revolutionary War — our forefathers’ dream of freedom.

Most Boston Marathon runners gained entry into the race by meeting a certain time in a previous marathon. They battled injuries and life schedules in order to meet that strict time limit. And then they trained all over again in the months leading up to Boston. A handful of elite runners go to Boston in an attempt to win money, which in many countries is the dream of being able to put food on their tables for the next year. A few thousand other runners gain entry into the race by raising thousands of dollars for charities that, in turn, try to fulfill dreams of curing cancer and beating back other significant life obstacles.

Many of us runners see Boston as a nearly impossible dream, because we cannot run fast enough to qualify. I ran my first marathon in December 2008, and it took my three years to knock 22 minutes off my finish time. If I want to qualify for Boston, I have to take another 19 minutes off my time. It gets exponentially harder to speed up the pace.

Because the Boston Marathon has always seemed like a far-off dream to me, I chased other dreams. After finishing one marathon, I ran another one so that I could say, “I run marathons (plural).” Then I began chasing a sub-four-hour marathon finish, a dream that finally came true in marathon number six. Next, I went back to a dream of qualifying for Marathon Maniacs, meaning that I had to run three marathons in 90 days. It took me a couple years and three attempts, but I finally did it. Then I decided to run an ultramarathon. Somehow, I’ve now finished a 31.2-mile ultra and 11 marathons. When I actually think about that total, it definitely feels like a dream.

So, after seeing these dreams come true, now what? A longer ultramarathon seems like the next logical goal. So does a second sub-four-hour marathon, to prove to myself that the first one wasn’t a fluke. But what is truly my next running dream? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and I think I’ve always known the answer that I was too afraid to voice: Boston.

Today in Boston, many dreams came true and many others were turned into horribly true nightmares. How do we deal with the nightmares? I’ve spent countless hours with people who lost loved ones to violence, and at some point they all share the same cry: The victims’ lives were cut short before being able to see their dreams come true.

Four years ago, I watched helplessly as someone came within milliseconds of being brutally murdered. It took me a year after that to realize that one thought was running repeatedly through my subconscious: “Life is short; live it.”

Whoever committed murder today at the Boston Marathon should not be allowed victory. I refuse to let them take away my dream and turn it into a nightmare. Rather, I will fight that much harder to live my life as fully as I can. Life should be lived, and dreams should come true.

7 Responses to On dreams and Boston

  1. “Life should be lived, and dreams should come true.” Perfectly said. Beautifully written post. <3

  2. Beautiful post, Layla. The running community is resilient and we will charge on.

  3. Avatar Grampa Ben
    Grampa Ben says:

    Hi Layla,
    Just read your entire piece on Boston. You’ve got the heart, talent and genes of a first class reporter, which you certainly are! The detail, language and feeling in this piece is absolutely one of the best I have ever read.
    Thanks for this, keep up the good work, writing and running!
    Grampa Ben

  4. We all have to keep dreaming… and living, even on/after the days that seem the hardest to bare. Beautiful post Layla.

  5. Keep running strong.

  6. Thank you, everyone, for the lovely comments.