On April 15, 2013 Celeste and Sydney Corcoran, mother and daughter, attended the Boston Marathon to cheer on Celeste’s sister, Carmen Acabbo. A beautiful Patriot’s Day in Boston to celebrate the human spirit of runners.
As everyone know that day turned tragic. Sydney and Celeste were both seriously injured. Celeste lost both of her legs and Sydney had her femoral artery severed by shrapnel. Father and husband, Nick Corcoran tended to his wife and hoped that someone had found his daughter and was caring for her. Both women should have died. Both were saved by the quick thinking of a caretaker. One by her spouse and one by a stranger.
But this isn’t a post about tragedy. Its a post about one statement that Celeste Corcoran made to her sister, Carmen Acabbo, while recovering in the hospital. A woman who had just had both legs amputated due to a senseless crime says to her sister the runner that she was sorry and disappointed that she didn’t get to see her finish. That is the triumph of the human spirit.
As runners, we know what it means to us to complete races, especially the marathon distance. We really can’t grasp what it means to nonrunners to see runners triumph against the marathon distance. I am reminded of the quote by Marianne Williamson, “…as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” That is the liberation that Celeste and Sydney Corcoran were seeking on that warm, spring day along Boylston Street.
In his speech upon winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949, William Faulkner said, “I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance.”
Celeste Corcoran chose to prevail! Amercans will prevail!
Today I run for Celeste Corcoran.
Yesterday I started a memorial string of runs to memorialize those killed and injured in the Boston Marathon explosion. The challenge is to run 30 days straight without a day off. To some runners this isn’t that great of a challenge but I don’t think I have ever run more than ten days in a row.
This morning at 5:30 when the alarm went of my first inclination was to hit the snooze. I’ll run later, although I knew I didn’t have the time. Suddenly thoughts started pouring into my brain. A young boy, Martin Richard, would never have to have this conversation in his head. More like he would never have the opportunity to have this feeling. As I climbed out of bed, got dressed and climbed on the treadmill, my thoughts turned to the circumstances surrounding Martin’s death.
Mr. Richard, the father, had awakened that morning to run a marathon. He was probably feeling nervous and anxious. I know that’s how I felt the morning of my marathon. In his heart he was probably very happy that his family had come to see him run. I know that always means the world to me. Although he was happy they were there, his focus was probably mostly on his race and was not very attentive to them. I was that way. Through 26.2 miles he was most definitely in some pain. I’m sure there were agonizing times for him as most of us mere mortals have experienced in the marathon. I remember thinking in my second marathon that when it was over I wanted my girls to see me run through the finish line. Over and over I thought about how it was important not to give up because I didn’t want my girls to see their dad as a quitter. I’m guessing Mr. Richard felt the same thing. Only for Mr. Richard his day ended even worth than the necessary pain of completing a marathon.
Mr. Richard’s family, Martin, his daughter and his wife, were decimated by a homemade bomb inexplicably set off near the finish line. Martin was killed. His daughter lost a leg. His wife with significant brain injury from shrapnel. His life would never be the same.
As a runner, I hate the fact that an event that I love has been tarnished. It seems almost personal to me. Like I had been attacked.
My solace will be to run. It won’t help the Richard’s. It will help me to heal and hopefully help the running world to heal.
*****After writing this I learned that early reports of Bill Richards running the marathon were incorrect. He was a spectator also. I still needed to say what I said.