The Runners' Spirit & the Human Spirit

"Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit." - Bernard Williams

Many of you may be visiting this blog for the very first time, and I hope that you will take the time to review some of the older blogs here about childhood cancer, a topic that is likely the most important in my life. However, after the events that took place in Boston on Monday I am here today writing about another of my passions -- running. I'm an avid runner for Team Lemon, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation's athletic arm, and over the course of the last 24 hours, I found myself writing these words, not knowing their purpose and whether they would find a home. The only logical place I could think was here, where I have so often shared the trials and tribulations of my life, and those that coincide with my extreme passion for running for a cause.

I am not here to speculate on what happened at the finish line, instead I am here to share what I know of the special bond that exists between runners, those who cheer them on and the clear display of heroism that is found in both. The loss of life yesterday was unfathomable, and for many of us, our natural instinct as runners is to lace up our sneakers; it's what we know how to do; one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

Running is not something that I have always done; in fact it is something that I have only picked up within the last five years of my life. I started running because of my competitive nature, but I stuck with it because of the camaraderie that I felt with my friends and fellow runners. It's odd when you think about it, running is a sport where you spend the majority of the time in a very large crowd, yet you're alone. You're alone in your head, thinking about how many more miles you have to go, what your heart rate is, how your breathing is and of course how tired your legs are. If you've never run in a distance race, it's hard to explain, you're by yourself, but part of something so much bigger, and surrounded by this feeling of togetherness.

I have been through several races where I have been tired and one of my fellow runners patted me on the back, handed me a banana or simply winked, giving me the strength to keep going. Then there are those who come out to cheer you on, you may know some of them, but more likely than not there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, that you don't. I have experienced the jolt of adrenaline when you see a familiar face in the crowd, but I have also experienced it when someone you don't recognize yells "you've got this, Jay!" There are heroes lining all of these races, not just those who crush athletic barriers, not just those who run for the causes they believe in, but those who spend their days exemplifying what it is to do for others; what it is to help others achieve their goals and overcome what they thought impossible.

I know that this feeling of togetherness was present in Boston on Monday, and across the country as we learned of the events. Already there have been stories of heroism, of those running toward the wounded, runners continuing on to hospitals to donate blood and I'm sure that the runners who never had the chance to get to the finish line were banding together in the time of uncertainty. This is the special bond that runners have, and that truly, we as human beings all share.

I have seen this coming together of spirit before in times of both triumph and in tragedy. In the days and weeks ahead, I'll continue running, and very soon I will join tens of thousands of people in Philadelphia for our Broad Street Run. I know it will be a difficult day, and one full of heavy hearts, but I also know that heroes will line the street that day too, embracing the runners and each other, because that's what we do, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.