Over the last few years, I decided to take up running as a hobby. I had dabbled with running here and there in years prior, but had never made a full-fledged commitment to doing road races and building up towards running a full marathon. But being intentional about my running did a lot of good for me. For one thing, it helped me lose a little bit of weight I had been wanting to shed for awhile. For another, it gave me a new form of meditation, a way of getting out and experiencing nature and everyday life – oftentimes in the middle of the workday, to help ground myself and to help me focus. Last but not least, it gave me a new mission.
I started out with short races and eventually I built up to half-marathons. I always hated running growing up and felt I did not have the right body type to ever run a half marathon. I remember being overwhelmed with emotion when I completed my first half-marathon, because I had proven to myself that I could do something that once felt impossible, and I had shattered my own expectations in terms of how fast I could do it. Once I had accomplished that, I focused on running faster and getting my average mile pace down. When the pace of my second half-marathon was slower than that of the first, I cried. I guess you could say I can be a little bit hard on myself.
All the running I had done helped me qualify for the 2020 New York City Marathon. This was a daunting new challenge altogether, but given that I had already proven to myself that I could break barriers that seemed insurmountable, I was prepared. And then COVID hit, deferring my dream of running a marathon by a year.
Growing up in the Boston area, I would always watch the Boston marathon. My family would usually go and watch the race live or go to a friend’s house to watch it. There is an actual holiday in Boston called Patriots’ Day so that local people can go and take a day off to watch the race.
April 15, 2013 was a very harrowing day for me. At the time, I was living in Boston Back Bay very close to the Boston marathon finish line, but I was in New York City speaking at a work event. I remember hearing the news while in the security line at the airport coming home that bombs had gone off near the marathon finish line. I felt an array of emotions. First, I wondered if my friends and family were safe. At the time, my parents worked in Boston and I had no idea if they were safe. I then felt a mixture of guilt and gratitude that I was not there. Gratitude because I likely would have been near the marathon finish line watching the race when those bombs went off, but guilty for the same exact reason – that I was away from my home city, and not there to try to help people.
That day and the week-long manhunt that ensued was one of the strangest periods of time for myself and other people who call Boston their home. When I got back from the airport that day, I had to prove to police officers that I lived in the area because they were unsure if there were other bombs. I basically locked down for a couple of days until the dust settled, but people remained on edge trying to understand who had committed the crimes. When the Boston Bruins eventually returned to action and the crowd sang the Star Spangled Banner, it gave me chills. When David Ortiz yelled to a sold out Fenway Park crowd “This is our f*cking city!!” I was proud.
The term “Boston Strong” came about because of the way the people of Boston rallied around one another. In addition to the three casualties that day, there were hundreds more injured and yet countless others suffering from trauma of having witnessed such a horrific event. When it mattered most, it was the first responders and Boston Police officers who jumped into harm’s way to help. Something miraculous about that day is the number of people who ran into the debris – not away from it – to risk their lives to help others. If not for the Boston Police, I am scared to think of what could have happened that day.
Last year, a Princeton classmate of mine firebombed a police vehicle in the name of social justice. Many of my friends ran to his defense and supported him and even justified his actions. I wrote at the time that if the Boston marathon bombings were to happen today, that there are probably many people who would take their side or share their ideology about the American military’s treatment of Muslims abroad, like in Afghanistan. I shudder to think of that reality, but in an era where slogans like “All cops are bastards” and “defund the police” have become mainstream – despite 81% of Black Americans saying they do not support such slogans – I feel I can no longer be quiet.
I don’t think it should have to feel taboo to write a blog to support the men and women who risk their lives every day – like during the marathon bombings – and yet here we are, and I am already nervous about the blowback I will get for writing this blog (and I haven’t even finished it yet). It is very easy to criticize others when you do not have to walk a mile in their skin. It is even easier and lazier to characterize entire groups of people as a certain “thing.” When we do it based on skin color, we call it racism. When we do it based on gender, we call it sexism. And yet, when we do it based on occupation – in this case “policing” – there are many who somehow justify their behavior as if it is anything different.
I recently stumbled upon an opportunity to run the Boston Marathon, contingent upon my ability to raise $10,000 for the Boston Police Foundation. The Boston Police Foundation provides the training resources so desperately needed to help police do their jobs in the safest and most professional manner. It is an idea that both sides of the political aisle should be rallying behind when we talk about police reform: how to make the police better, not how to punish them holistically. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream and to support a worthwhile cause in the process. Please consider helping me on this journey: I will be forever grateful.
You may donate here.