by Melissa Brunner
"Look for the helpers. You will always find people helping."
Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mr. Rogers, once said this is what his mother would tell him when he saw something scary on the news. Monday's incident at the finish line of the Boston Marathon would certainly qualify.
Runners can be a fickle lot. I've seen articles accuse runners of being selfish. I mean, really, who takes an hour - if not hours - to be by themselves on a road or trail putting one foot in front of the other to reach some individual goal or simply for the sake of doing it?
But if you've ever found yourself at the starting line of a community 5k, you will realize that each of those individuals comes together to form a unique community. Runners don't need to know each others' names to share words of encouragement or support, to trade training tips or tales, or to come together for a common cause. You'll find runs benefiting countless non-profit organizations and groups who use their love of running to raise money for a cause (the NF Endurance team for Children's Tumor Foundation and Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are just a couple of the groups which had runners at Boston Monday). Regardless of ability, if you are at the starting line or on the trail with them, you, too, are a runner. With all of that, even those of us who can't fathom finishing 26.2 miles feel a sense of kinship with those line up at Boston or any other marathon. We feel joy in their accomplishment.
This sense of community was on full display in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon tragedy. We heard tales of runners continuing from the finish line to the blood centers to donate; many ran into the chaos to offer assistance to the injured; doctors who were on the course, including Dr. Chris Rupe of Salina, sprung into action, offering their skills to aid the wounded. We also saw 78-year-old Bill Iffrig, steps from the finish line when the first blast hit, fall to the ground, and, with the help of a course assistant, pick himself up and walk the final 15 feet of the race.
You didn't need to look far to find the helpers.
No, what happened at the Boston Marathon wasn't necessarily about runners or running. But it does get to the heart of what runners are all about - freedom and community. It is about helping each other through the best of times and the worst of times. It is about making each other's struggles our own. It is about, when we feel pushed to our limits and want to quit, persevering, taking another step and reaching the finish line. It is what runners do, and it is what our nation will do after yet another tragedy - we will continue, we will persevere, we will run another day.