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Three years ago today, the Boston Marathon bombing occurred in Boston, Massachusetts. Several people were killed, hundreds were injured and millions worldwide were affected. I’ve been hesitant to write about it because it is such a difficult topic wrapped in strong emotions. But perhaps it’s time. Looking back, I’m realizing now the impact that this event had on the trajectory of my life: it led to a running revival and renaissance of sorts, a renewed vigor and life purpose and mission centered around running and an intense love for running and other runners worldwide near and far. Sometimes we ask ourselves WHY we are running. After these events, we did not ask why. We just knew why. And the whys for runners running were in alignment to an unusual degree.

On that fateful day, I recall watching some of the Boston Marathon race. After getting back to work, I quickly learned from Twitter that the bombing had occurred. I felt shock, confusion, fear, and anger. Our sacrosanct sport of running and in particular, running marathons, had been directly attacked by terrorism for the first time in my adult lifetime.

After learning that everyone I knew who I thought was running the marathon was safe, there still was deep compassion and concern we felt for the innocent victims and families. The stories were so horrific I had to read them in small bites or it was just too much to absorb and we all seemed to have an inability to accept that it happened.

But a very interesting thing happened next: unprecedented UNITY among runners and their families. Runners united around the world to run, pray for, raise funds, donate goods, and help in any way that we could. I had never seen unity like this in the USA, not since the events of 9/11/2001. It was amazing to see worldwide support for the people affected and for Boston in particular. Running united us more than we thought and together we were able to help each other heal in small steps, day by day, finding the positive and accentuating the positive, lifting each other up. Mutual support for everyone was found. Hugs and virtual hugs were shared. I am so grateful and thankful beyond words to my friends, family, and running communities that helped me though this difficult time.

Yes, tragedy can bring out the best in humanity if we work together for the common good of all. No, tragedy cannot always be understood but we can help all those who need us regardless of their circumstances. All we have to do is listen, reach out, and let our hearts guide us with compassionate concern for all.

How can we help people in Boston today? Many runners raise funds for charities through the Boston Marathon (and other races). Team Hoyt is a good example. One way is through donating to the One Boston Fund or one of these charities that are affiliated with the Boston Marathon. If we all can give a little, we can help a lot. Support or sponsor a runner who is running or help someone who was affected by the race in some way.

Although I’ve only been to Boston once (en route to Hyannis for running coach certification), it has a big place in my heart. Someday I hope to run the Boston Marathon, whether I qualify by time or maybe running it for a charity near and dear to my heart.

These events have taught me that my problems are so miniscule and so small compared to those of others and that we all have a bigger capacity to help than we care to admit or recognize.

Next time someone asks us for help, instead of simply saying no, let’s try this: pause, shift direction, and say yes. How can I help or serve you? Let’s work together to serve more people not just in our own backyard, but those in Boston, the USA, and those most in need around the world regardless of how far or how difficult that sacrifice is. Help the helpless whom no one else sees or hears. To those whom much is given, much is expected.