Ten minutes. It’s such an insignificant amount of time. In ten minutes you can stand in the shower trying to wake up before work. In ten minutes you can mindlessly stare at an infomercial. But what if ten minutes became everything?
Monday morning at 5am, my friend Kyle and I headed out with a group who were taking on the double-double: a challenge in which ultramarathoners run from the finish line to the start and back concluding a 52.4 mile journey. The excitement of Boston Marathon Monday was palpable. We high-fived and navigated Bolyston Street, embracing the perfection of the day.
The Boston Marathon has been a long-time dream of mine. It attracts the elite of the elites; internationally renowned Olympians, celebrities, and everyday runners who have surpassed the pack. The central goal in my life for the past five years has been to qualify for this race.
What I love about the running community is how it illuminates the bonds of human existence. The natural high from endorphins, the repetitive movement, the deep breathing, direct an atmosphere of pure openness. I’ve learned more intimate details about people while running then all other activities combined.
That morning we met John O’Connor, an ultramarathoner who started running after his wife left him. He runs to give his son something to be proud of. We found out how our colleague knew he was in love with his wife. We met a man raising money for wounded soldiers in honor of his friend who died in Iraq.
Kyle and I cruised to the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, wished our new friends the best, and turned around completing a 15-miler. We reveled in the spirit of Boston. At that moment, I wanted to qualify for 2014 more than anything.
We arrived at the hotel, ate breakfast, packed our bags, and then headed out to watch the race. I stopped at Walgreens to buy sunglasses. We paused to take photos of other spectators. We meandered into a bar and celebrated. The elite women passed us, then the elite men. Kyle and I decided to make our way to the finish line bleachers with my VIP pass. He was excited to cheer on his Uncle and hand him a congratulatory beer.
Slowly, the exhaustion of the weekend began to take its toll. Our 5:30 train back to New York City seemed too far away. “Kyle, I’m tired, let’s catch an earlier train.” “Let’s wait for my Uncle to cross.” “There’s way to many people, we probably won’t see him anyway.” The mixture of an early wake-up call, a 15-mile run, and a few beers became the deciding factors. We left the finish line, grabbed our bags, and trudged into the Back Bay train station. It was 2:40pm.
While swapping our tickets at the booth, I heard a large rumble. I thought it was a train. A few seconds later, another rumble. People began pouring into the station. No one screamed. No one cried. A chaotic hum of urgency buzzed among all of us. The common goal: Get Out. A text popped up on my phone: “Are you okay. There’s a bomb.” I went to look outside. Kyle grabbed my arm and directed me towards the train. We pushed to the front of the platform and showed the conductor our tickets. We sat down. The train moved.
Two miles outside the city, our phones started going off.
The adrenaline rush from trauma pushes you into an altered state where time and emotion do not exist; that is until something snaps you back. My brother’s voicemail was simple, “Please call me. Please, oh my God, call me. Please.” I paused. Reality rushed in. People I love thought I was dead.
I put my phone down.
“Kyle, we missed that by ten minutes.”
A few moments went by.
“Kyle, we missed that by ten minutes.”
We were the last train out of Boston that night.
So how does it feel to be an “almost,” a “what-if,” a “near miss?”
It’s like a storm where everyone rushes indoors but even after the thunder stops and the sun peaks through the clouds, you’re still convinced it’s raining.
It’s like my body is on autopilot, floating through each day analyzing cause and effect outcomes. Effect: I get clean. Cause: I took a shower. Effect: I have energy. Cause: I ate. Effect: A bomb exploded at the Boston Marathon. Cause:
It’s like the world has stopped and I have this heightened clarity of what’s important. The small arguments no longer matter. My to-do list is void. Daily mundane problems seem nauseatingly ridiculous.
It’s like I’m not a person.
Running is my life. I ran track and cross country in high school. I started competing in marathons and triathlons when I turned 18. I was captain of my triathlon team in college. I run to relieve stress and solve problems. When I had to choose a college, I ran to sort out my options. When my cousin committed suicide, I ran to subdue my grief and guilt. On Tuesday night, I ran with Kyle to feel human again.
In one week I am running the Big Sur International Marathon: 26.2 miles along the breathtaking pacific coast of Northern California. I will run for Boston. I will run for my brother’s voicemail that I can’t seem to delete. I will run for Kyle. But most of all, I’ll run for all those seemingly irrelevant moments that make up ten minutes.