New Castle News

April 18, 2013

Tim Kolodziej: Horror, and plenty of heroes, at the finish line

Tim Kolodziej
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Man, do I miss running.

All the miles.

All the smiles.

Even the personal time trials.

There’s nothing like lacing up the kicks, cranking up the music and losing yourself, stride by glorious stride, for the next hour or so.

Sweat pouring. Quads burning. Chest forward, heels up.

I’m grinning just thinking about it.

Oh, I still hit the road on occasion, but for a variety of reasons my workouts these days are confined to a climate-controlled gym or a treadmill.

It just isn’t the same.

Then I watched in horror Monday as the events unfolded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

And I missed running even more.

“The five S's of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill and Spirit; but the greatest of these is Spirit.”  — Ken Doherty


That’s how I often described those who had run a marathon. I can’t even begin to imagine the energy, the will and determination it takes to trek 26.2 miles and break the tape.

I often joke that I once “finished” a marathon with my sister, Donna. Problem is, I never started it. I jumped in at the 20-mile mark and did my best to encourage her to complete her journey, prodding her with a string of show tunes, inspirational quotes and TV trivia from our childhood.

She crushed it, along with hundreds of others that day. And I was amazed.

As we milled around afterward, we witnessed competitors in agony. Dehydrated runners were hooked up to IVs. Others collapsed in exhaustion.

Believe it or not, those were the exception. We mostly saw pure, unadulterated joy.

Euphoria, even.

That’s why Monday’s scene in Boston was so heart-wrenching. Instead of a “bucket list” event that would blossom into a special memory for years to come, it quickly turned into a nightmare filled with screams, unspeakable injuries — and even death.

But in a weird way, it was much like any other marathon finish. We witnessed pain. We cringed as competitors collapsed. We observed others receiving medical attention.

And, yes, we teared up as heroes crossed the finish line.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”  — Mister Rogers

And those heroes never stopped running.

But instead of hustling away from the carnage, they ran TOWARD it.

•Several marathoners were seen tearing off their shirts to use as tourniquets on victims.

•Two fatigue-clad soldiers who had just finished the race rushed straight into the explosion site to help the wounded.

•Competitors who crossed the finish line continued to run to Massachusetts General Hospital to give blood to victims. Way more than what was needed.

The helpers. We could see the helpers.

And after witnessing those inspiring acts of kindness, it hit me: THAT’S what I really miss about gathering with hundreds of others for a weekend race — the connections in the midst of the competion.

Make no mistake, running is an intensely individual sport — contestants train hard and race even harder — but it’s never about beating the other guy. It’s all about being your best self for however long it takes you to complete the course.

I’ve always loved how the fastest in the bunch finish the race then jog back to cheer on the rest of the pack. They returned again in Boston, but this time they sprung into action and assisted first responders with medical attention, delivering hugs or offering a shoulder to cry on.

That should not be a shock to those who have considered themselves runners at some point in their lifetimes. We’re used to spotting heroes at the finish line.

But this week, the rest of the world saw it firsthand, too.

“Running is a sport that unites us. All backgrounds and ability levels,” someone named OlivetoRun Tweeted after the attack. “This event is trying to break us, but we are strong. We are runners.”

And on Monday afternoon, you were so much more.