The answer to this question may seem patently obvious. I reached the finish line on Boylston Street on April 15. I crossed the finish line around the same time as one of the two gentlemen I traveled and spent the weekend with. I crossed the finish line behind several people I knew and in front of a lot of other people I knew. I crossed the finish line after nearly 5,000 others, but that was much better than where my qualifying and bib number (7827) would have suggested. I crossed the finish line that several thousand runners were never able to cross. And after I crossed the finish line I did not stop immediately as I had done after at least one of the four other marathons I ran. I kept walking—as everyone who was not physically ill or otherwise incapable of walking/running any further was asked to do at the finish. I kept walking—glad to have crossed the finish line. I stayed on my feet—strong enough to keep myself going after the finish line. And I thought that my Boston experience (aside from getting my medal, getting sa shower, and driving home) was done.
Finish lines are usually black and white. I am either on one side of the finish line or the other. I know exactly where it is. I know whether the tape has been broken or not if you have any chance of being first. On a track it is particularly easy since the finish line is almost always in the same place. The only difficulty on the track is sometimes is keeping track of how many times I have gone around. For an 800 meter race this is not a big deal. For the mile it sometimes is a challenge to count. And for anything longer it is a bigger challenge. Of course, indoors is even more challenging even for the mile to keep track of just how many times I have gone around—although it has been many years since I had to worry about that.
Sometimes in longer races it can be a challenge to understand where the start and finish lines are. However, even there it is usually easier to figure out where the finish line is as the finish line usually has some time of inflatable “gateway” that everyone passes through. And whether it is a large inflatable arch or just some balloons, there is now mistaking where the finish line is.
When I crossed the finish line I thought it would be black and white. I was not finished, then I was. But the attackers actions led to a much different outcome.
It has now been almost five weeks since the Boston Marathon.
I am still processing.
I am still writing.
I am still thinking.
It is not as constant as it was. I went running with a friend this morning with whom I had not had the opportunity to run since early February or late January. We managed to go for approximately a one hour run with no mention of Boston—or only the briefest mention. We had plenty of other things about career and kids, running and fellow runners to catch up on.
But when I am alone, I still ponder.
When I hear new news, it still grabs my attention.
I’m not sure what the symbolic finish line for the attackers was. Was their finish line planting the explosives? Was their finish line detonating the explosives? Did they have an even bigger finish line in mind with supposed plans for New York city? I am sure that they did not think their finish line would be death in a shootout and lying in a boat waiting and being captured.
I imagine they did not ponder how their actions would influence the finish line for so many others. Obviously, detonating the explosives near the finish line they realized and intended to affect many at the finish line. Their tiing suggests they did not really understand when an explosion at the finish line would be most harmful—and for that I am thankful.
But their action certainly changed my finish line for this race experience. Not for the race itself—that ended on Boylston street just as clearly as expected.
However, if we think about the race experience as a whole, it definitely has extended my experience. The news coverage following the initial explosions also affected my race experience and the continuation of the race experience. Every time it makes a top of the news headline again (although the coverage has mostly become inner pages material at this point), the situation again becomes front and center in my mind.
So, in some ways, this feels like a bad dream where the finish line keeps moving further and further away. The finish line keeps changing. The rules keep changing. The expectations and realizations keep changing.
So where will the finish line be for the experience? I may never reach an absolute finish line. The race experience finish line will never be as black and white as the race finish line.
I never would have guessed that this would be the case.
I know that people sometimes talk about achieving some closure. In this case, I guess it is sort of like asking whether I will cross the finish line. If I really did achieve closure, then, yes, I would believe I had crossed the finish line. However, I think I may never get anything more than very close to the finish line. There will never likely be complete closure. I can appreciate so much better how people who have suffered a tragic loss talk about things like finding the accused and achieving a conviction make them feel better but don’t necessarily bring closure. When we finally get all the details of the investigation. When we finally understand—as best we ever will—the motivation of the brothers. When we finally have some legal system outcome of the case. Then, I will feel like I have come very close to the finish line. But deep inside somewhere, the pain and anger and helplessness that I felt that first afternoon will always be there. And if there is a black and white I am not sure that I will ever cross the finish line and achieve complete closure on this one. The best I can hope for is to be within sight of the finish line with no one moving the line ever again. I’m not sure when I will be there, but I’m not quite there yet.
© 2013, Kevin D. Frick