Boston strong

I’m fighting a really nasty cold—the kind that keeps you up most of the night and turns one whole side of your body into a big painful knot after coughing yourself awake too many times to count. I want to take a sick day here at The Flourishing Tree, but I also didn’t want the news of the day to go by without comment.

So if you want some words today about what a guilty verdict on all 30 counts means to this runner girl, take a look back at the words I wrote the day after the bombings two years ago. Or revisit my prayer for Boston 2014, which I’ll pray all over again in less than two weeks—because some wounds take longer to heal, and some prayers need praying again.

My Twitter feed is full of Boston and #BostonStrong today, and my favorite set of tweets comes from @OnlyInBOS (thanks to my sweet husband for bringing these to my attention):

BostonStrong Tweets_2015

“Evil may disrupt the race but can never win it.”

@OnlyinBOS goes on to ask for help focusing on those murdered instead of the man declared guilty today, to get the names of the dead to trend worldwide on Twitter. I’ll do my part in remembrance of them today so that we can all lift up the family and friends who still mourn the senseless loss of these four young lives:

Martin Richard

Krystle Campbell

Lu Lingzi

Sean Collier

And once I’m feeling stronger myself, I’ll be back with a story of some awe-inspiring runners. We runners are a resilient bunch. We may not all be fast enough to qualify to run Boston, but our hearts beat #BostonStrong.

Running cultures

I’m a southern girl living in a growing city. When I go out for a run in the morning, I know at least half of the runners I pass will greet me in some way. A nod or a wave, a “hello” or “mornin'” (we mostly drop that last -g around here).

I know a handful of cars will stop to let me cross roads, a few more will even move over to give me room to run along the shoulder, but I know that most cars’ drivers will not even notice me.

On my weekend runs, if I meet a Galloway group, I’ll hear a chorus of “Runner up! Runner up! Runner up!” trickle down the line of runners as we go by so the runners in back will move over to allow me room to run by. If I’m overtaking them, I’ll hear, “Runner back!” This practice amuses my husband, and he says it reminds him of the quacking of a mother duck and her line of ducklings. In addition to being amusing, it’s also really darn considerate.

What’s the running culture like where you live? Do runners greet each other and how? With a verbal greeting? A wave or maybe a thumb’s up?

Do cars stop to let you cross the street? Do you already have to be in the crosswalk for drivers to stop? Or do they stop if you’re waiting on the side of the road to cross? (Of all the places I’ve ever been, Maine is the best for this practice. Pat yourself on the back, Maine drivers.)

I ask you these questions because I’m still pondering different running cultures after a week’s vacation in New England. My husband and I visited three New England states and talked with each other about the different reactions we got while we were out running.

The first few days of our trip, we were in a coastal town with an asphalt path running along the edge of ocean cliffs. Our waves and “good mornings” were largely greeted with blank stares or stony silence. Some of the walkers and runners we passed seemed perplexed to hear our voices. A handful of folks we passed would respond in kind, but they were definitely the exception (and to be honest, we started to wonder if they were also visitors).

I met a Galloway group that Saturday morning running along the cliff path in the opposite direction from me, and instead of the usual “Runner up!” I hoped to hear, all I heard was the pounding of feet. Were they on some sort of death march that they could not acknowledge a fellow runner? I’ll admit it: they made me homesick. (In fairness, they may have preferred I stay home or at least stay off “their” path.) I passed them a second time on the way back to the beginning of the trail. Same silence.

Cars were kinder in this town, though, and even though not all stopped for me as I waited at a crosswalk, there were more who stopped for me than would have at a crosswalk in my own city. I waved as I crossed, probably branding myself as a tourist.

Ah, Boston
My husband and I stayed just outside of Boston proper for the next leg of our trip. Again, a few confused stares at our greetings, but I also had what almost qualified as a conversation with one runner (a sudden sound of rushing water had startled us both as we turned to the source thinking “Large animal?” It turned out to be a large drain dumping water into the river, and we laughed at our own jumpiness and wished each other a good run.). The few more responses I got made the run feel less lonely.

The community of runners may simply be more bonded together in Boston because of Boston’s history with running, and so running camaraderie may be more welcomed or expected there.

Next stop: the green state
In the final days of our trip, we headed north and stayed in a small town that boasts a national park and brushes up to the Appalachian Trail. I’ll admit that my sample size was pretty small on my run here, but the folks I passed mostly just gave me sideways glances as I ran by and called out “hello.” One woman with a dog smiled as I went by.

As my husband and I walked around the town later that day, we met an extremely friendly couple whose automatic garage door we stopped to admire/gawk at (it opened out instead of up!). We chatted for several minutes with them about the garage doors, the town and its must-sees, our own city. Their warmth took some of the sting out of my silent encounters on the morning’s run.

The next day, I was chatting with a doorman at the hotel while my husband went to get our car. He asked where I was from. I asked if he was from there. He said, “No, I’m from Mass.” He paused and then said, “It’s pretty much the same, though.” I was skeptical and told him so. He replied more honestly then. “No, the culture’s pretty different here.” I wondered if his initial response is just something he tells all the southern ladies so we go back with our stereotypes of New England intact.

I wanted to tell him that the running culture is different there, too.

How about where you live? Whether you’re out running or walking, do you greet the others you see? If I were to visit and passed you on a morning run, would you call out a greeting to me?

If you come to my city, I’ll be sure to wave or say hi. Well, unless I’m going up a steep hill. Then you may just have to settle for a slight nod.

Boston, books and broken toes

Wow – what a week this has already been. Easter on Sunday. The riveting Boston Marathon on Monday. A final celebration of the Girls on the Run season yesterday. And now today, World Book and Copyright Day.

Easter passed quietly for my husband and me. We celebrated at a sunrise service, a custom he brought to our marriage that I’ve tried to embrace, despite being the opposite of a morning person. We were out of town and celebrated at a lovely stone church where we sang the usual Easter songs and heard a message about the defiance in Jesus’ eyes after the resurrection. He had looked at death, and He triumphed over it.

Meb Keflezighi also had an air of defiance about him at Monday’s Boston Marathon. He turned and saw other competitors coming for him, and he triumphed over them. His victory ended a decades-long drought for Americans winning the Boston Marathon, and it came at the best possible moment for Boston and the United States, as we collectively breathed in the mantra “Boston Strong” and shouted for Meb’s victory (my dog didn’t know what to make of all the jumping up and down and yelling).


Tuesday’s sports section led with Keflezighi’s win at Boston.

I’ve been a huge Meb fan for years and have celebrated his numerous running accomplishments. My husband and I met him at the 2012 US Olympic Track and Field Trials, when we ran into him in the courtyard of the inn where we were staying. He was waiting to meet friends and was so gracious as we interrupted his reverie.

In the picture from the paper, you can just see the top of his race bib, where he had written two of the four names of victims from the Boston bombers. The other two names were in the bottom corners of the bib. This simple act endeared him to many and tells you just a bit about the heart of this elite athlete. Continue reading

A prayer for Boston

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the bombings during the Boston Marathon, and media coverage has taken over with stories positive, hard, sad, inspiring, uplifting. I’ve struggled to contain my emotions this week as story after story describe individuals’ lives a year after two terrorists decided not to wait any longer to launch an attack on the city and on my tribe, my family of runners.

On Monday, runners will line up again in Hopkinton, bibs pinned on, shoes laced up, ready to run toward the painted finish line on Boylston Street.


The finish line last year. It got a new coat of paint for this year’s race.

I love that this year’s race is the day after Easter, when we celebrate Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and victory over death through His resurrection. In many ways, regardless of faith, those who participate in the Boston Marathon on Monday are Easter people, too, celebrating resurrection: of a city’s pride, of a running community that would not let evil overcome it, of the human spirit that would not cave to fear and tragedy.

I’d like to offer up a prayer for all those running Boston and for all those lining the streets to cheer them on or keep them safe:

Almighty God,

Please be with the runners at Boston this year, both those I know and those I’ll never meet. Give them strength of body and mind as they take on this challenging course. Please also be with the police and medical crews who will protect the runners. Give them patience, wisdom and discernment as they do their work. Please also be with the race organizers and volunteers. Give them the ability to provide the runners with a wonderful, renewing experience. Please also be with the spectators who will cheer for the runners as they speed by. Replace any misgivings or anger or fear with joy and unity and a sense of jubilation. And, God, please be with those who cannot be at the race but long for the courage or the speed or the healing that would enable them to attend.

Please send comfort to those who mourn a loss of life or limb and with those who are trying to navigate a “new” normal. Please heal both the physical and emotional wounds of those traumatized by last year’s events.

Please cover the entire course with Your protection, and turn away all who are intent on causing terror or spreading evil and chaos.

I especially lift up the Hoyts to You, as they make their final Boston Marathon run together. May it be an occasion of joy and blessing for them after so many years of showing what a father’s love can mean in the life of a disabled son. I also lift up Scott Menzies and the other family and friends running in memory of Scott’s wife Meg. Please let them sense Your healing presence as they race where she had hoped to run. Please let the memorial for her near the 1-mile mark remind all who pass by to treasure their time here, to delight in life and to be kind to one another (and maybe also not to drive drunk or distracted).

Please send a gentle breeze – and if it’s in Your will, please let it be a tailwind, however rare for this marathon – and a perfect temperature for running. Please energize tired legs and mend broken hearts even as runners climb Heartbreak Hill.

Please, most of all, let good triumph on Monday. It is in Your son Jesus’ name that I make this prayer. Amen.

If you have family or friends (runners or spectators) heading to Boston and would like for me to pray for them by name on Monday during the race, it would be my privilege to do that for you. Please feel free to leave names and prayer requests in the comment section below.

For now, I’ll leave you with this Boston Marathon story featuring the Hoyts, an inspiring father-and-son duo who will run their final Boston Marathon together on Monday.

Remembering Boston

Almost two months have passed since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. To some of you, it may feel just like yesterday. To others, it may be just another example of a world gone tragically mad that is quickly fading into memory.

For runners, the bombings in Boston have become woven into the fabric of our running tapestry. For those fast enough, there are marathons to run to get a Boston qualifier for next year’s marathon. The print publication cycle has caught up, and I can’t pick up a running magazine without reading yet another runner’s account of this year’s Boston. The qualifying attempts and the runners’ stories serve as memorials of a sort, but there’s something in human grief that wants a more tangible memorial. And as a result, Boylston Street is filling with trinkets/treasures/trash.

I was in Boston recently and wanted to go to Boylston Street to see the finish line and the areas affected by the bombings. Yes, I was being a tourist, but I also wanted to offer a prayer there for those still recovering from their injuries and for those who will never get over the loved ones they lost that day.


My husband and I were on our way to the airport for a flight, and so he dropped me off and circled a few blocks while I walked around, puzzled by how little I actually saw left behind:


At first, just this small tree covered with bracelets and beads and shirts

I was expecting race bibs and signs and finishers’ medals and old shoes and flowers.


Flowers and stuffed animals and American flags sprinkle the ground near the blast sites.


More beads and bracelets left behind in Boston

What I didn’t realize until later – when I got home and Googled images for Boston bombing memorials – was that the clutter had become so overwhelming that someone (city officials?) decided to move the memorial area to a square nearby.


I took this photo, not realizing that the people and stuff were not some sort of street fair but rather the memorial area where people could congregate and leave behind mementos.

The square is past the finish line, and therefore beyond the bombing sites, and so maybe that’s why I didn’t think to look there. Continue reading