Has anyone else noticed a few changes in the way the general public is regarding the running community these days? Perhaps you’ve been running along, minding your own business, when you were startled by a car honk or a scream like, “Yeah! Keep on running!” followed by a driver offering you a fist pump. Or maybe a pedestrian randomly clapped or gave you a thumbs up as you trotted by. Sure, that kind of thing is normal during a race, but it’s quite surprising when it happens during a regular training run. Yet, many runners have reported surprising incidents of spontaneous support like this the past few weeks. So what’s up? No one’s complaining here, but just where is all this runner love suddenly coming from?
In a single word: Boston. It’s probably safe to assume readers know about the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon last month, where three people lost their lives and nearly 200 more runners and spectators were injured. The event was heavily covered by every news, radio, and online source imaginable. Not only was it just a horrific event in and of itself, but people just seemed flabbergasted that a community typically considered as harmless a runners was the target of the latest act of terrorism in our country.
The times following tragedy, when the best of human kind shows through, can be seen as a silver lining – a renewal of faith that most people in this world have good intentions and are still ready to help others in need. People seem to come out of the woodwork and offer their various services; everyone just wants to help – to be a part of the solution – and get the healing process started.
It’s been no different in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The country has surrounded the running community in a way they never have before, urging them to keep running with their heads high and eyes focused on the finish line. Running has become a metaphor of survival, endurance, and human spirit for the whole nation – not just for other runners. If you’ve hit the pavement or donned a race number any time recently, it’s hard not to feel love and supported by pretty much everyone.
In all honestly, this level of acknowledgement is kind of new for runners. Runners have always been a tight knit community of individuals who have each other’s backs and regularly thank one another for inspiration and encouragement, but they also knew they were a bit on the fringe of population’s majority. There have always been plenty of people to remind them, “Most people don’t think running is fun, ya know,” or “You ran how many miles? I’d get tired driving that far in my car.” The most popular runner of yesterday or today – an absolute hero within the running community – is likely an unrecognizable name to the majority of people. Non-runners usually reacted to the news of a friend or colleague running a marathon with a chortle and a look that said, “Better you than me!”
Is all this changing?
Following the Boston Marathon this year, the running community expanded tenfold overnight. The whole country realized the incredibly inspiring and unbreakable spirit of marathoners. Big, small, fast, or slow, they are absolutely amazing creatures. Whether this national interest in a sport some have loved for much of their lives continues or fades in time, the running community is composed of the type of people who will appreciate the extra support while its here and if eventually begins fading, well, they’ll probably just keep running on. That’s just what they do.