Running at its simplest ought to be a very solitary sport. The book isn’t called ‘The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner’ for nothing. You have no team, you have no shared uniform. Most practice is done alone. Unless you’re running a relay or a three-legged-race, your endeavours make no difference to the success of anyone else in the world.
And yet, through running I have connected with more people than I ever have through more ‘sociable’ pursuits.
These have been people on a local, face-to-face, scale. The kids who high-fived me as I was flagging towards the end of my half-marathon, the woman in my first 10K who shared her sweets and the marshalls who urged me on every step, then did the same again and again to everyone who passed. The man at work who has given me advice on the profile of all the races I’m lined up for, because he’s done every single one. Men and women at parties, turning our backs to the speakers so we can hear each other compare Garmin watches, running apps and beautiful race pics.
It has also connected me on a worldwide scale to a community like no other. Through comments on the blog, and friends on twitter, I know about what it’s like to be a runner in countries as diverse as Malaysia and Mexico. Your emails, tweets and comments bring smiles to my face every day, revelling in those “oh, I thought that was just me!” moments with people thousands of miles away.
This is why the events of Monday’s Boston Marathon have been so unthinkable. The community of runners and their supporters are, I know from experience, some of the nicest people in the world. I am unsurprised by the reports of runners who, having completed 26.2 miles, kept running to donate blood in such numbers that they had to be turned away.
More runners have caught my eye this week and said ‘Hi’ than ever before. Our loss is nothing compared to that of friends and families who came to celebrate effort and resilience and lost so much, but we are united in our support for those who did. Our sense of community is stronger than ever.
It’s appropriate that the Virgin London Marathon goes ahead this Sunday. For those of you who will be running the VLM and other runs, make it count for those who can’t. I’ll be cheering you on all the louder for it, solidarity with other runners from around the world.
As President Obama said to the people of Boston today – “We may be momentarily knocked off our feet, but we will pick ourselves up. We will keep going. We will finish the race.”