It has been 28 days since the Boston Marathon. This will be the 21st essay I have written since then. I have spent a lot of time working through my emotions around the post-marathon events. I continue to do so. And I think I am nearing the end. Yet, the title for today is “Does it all start here?”
I have noted on several occasions the sign at Hopkinton in the field by the school building that says “Hopkinton—It All Starts Here.” And yet, there are so many points at which I could say things started. I have named some of them already, but I will give a quick inventory. I could say it started when I wanted to prove that I could do more than be good at academics. I tried many sports. It could have been when I decided to leave soccer behind and join the track team in the spring of 1984. It could have been when I decided that track was not all I wanted and I decided to join the cross country team in the fall of 1984. It could have been when I decided to stick with it and earned three varsity letters senior year. It could have been when I returned to fitness in 2006. It could have been when a friend suggested I train for a half marathon in 2007. It could have been when I actually started and kept on running ever since in 2009. It could have been when I started training for the marathon in general in 2010. It could have been when I qualified for Boston in March 2012 at the Lower Potomac River Marathon. And, it could have been when I actually began the race in Hopkinton. Finally, and in line with this being the 21st essay since the Boston Marathon and 22nd in the series that I consider my Boston Marathon writings (counting one spiritual entry before the race), it could have been as I was going up Heartbreak Hill in mile 21. The race really did begin there. It was the time when I had to see what I was made of. In fact, my last three marathons were all about the last six miles. This time it was all about making it up the big hill and then seeing what I could continue to do afterwards. I managed a great mile 22 but after that point there was little.
Why is all of this something that I ponder and particularly put it in the context of the events of April 15?
I have wondered, where the whole process started for the brothers who are accused of the attack. Where were they coming from? How did they end up doing what they did? What was the motivation? What were they trying to achieve? What was their goal? Why did they make the choices that they did? How could they possibly have decided to take on a choice that would bring about such destruction? Such harm? Such death? And death to those who were innocent. Death to those who were just trying to mind their own business. Death to those who were just trying to enjoy a day out with their families. Death to those who were just there to watch those who were enjoying the freedom of running as far as they could on a beautiful April day. Why? Why? WHY?
And the fact that their action had to be initiated somewhere is a reminder that both very positive (like the marathon) and very negative (like the attack) actions all begin somewhere.
Sometimes the beginning is not 100% obvious. Sometimes we don’t actually realize that something has begun until we are most of the way through. Sometimes we only see the start of the path once we are on it, perhaps even half way down the path, and then we take a look back.
Everything in life has a beginning.
Relationship decisions. Being married for nearly 21 years now, I think I have done okay there but it is interesting to try to pinpoint exactly when the relationship that now has been my marriage for all that time began. And where did the bumps along the way begin? And where did the things that helped me and my wife overcome them begin.
Where did each career decision begin? How did I go from chemistry, to health policy, to health economics, to a school of public health, to a school of business?
Where did each decision about things at church begin? The decision to start teaching Sunday school? The decision to continue teaching Sunday school? The decision to be part of a worship band? The decision to leave the band for a while? And the decision to come back?
Not everything has a great big sign where I get my picture taken at the start. Not every decision has a clear starting line. I am sure that people wonder about some of my decisions as much as I wonder about the decisions of the attackers in Boston. And sometimes I try to give them answers. Sometimes the answers are simple. Sometimes they are incredibly context. For instance, my most recent career move was asked about by a leadership transition coach with one question—tell me the story of why?
So, I suppose that my choices, while not representing evil like the attackers, are not necessarily clear to myself and to others. Life is about making starts and sometimes pulling back. Life is also about finishing and looking back in a reflective way and figuring out how I ended up on the path in the first place. Life is about sorting out the starts and finishes on a daily basis and understanding what I have begun and how to bring it to an end.
I simply wish that the two attackers had thought differently about their initiation of their idea to attack. Although I suppose even they may be hard pressed to idenfiy exactly what one event moved them in the direction of the action they took.
In the end, I continue to struggle with the fact that the actions taken do not have to be rational and calculated.
That may be the biggest idea I have to let go of in order to come to grips with the series of events on and since April 15. We will see if five more entries can help me to do that.