The world seems a very different place since the Boston Marathon last Monday. With the London Marathon a few hours away, there has never been a stronger sense of us runners being a global community, united not just in our love of all things running but also in our determination not to give in.
Of course we are shocked. Less than a week ago, running was in a different world from bad things. Marathons are all about being human, reaching for our dreams, a manifestation of all that is best and true of humanity - even if that isn't always pretty. Somehow it was even more shocking because something so good and innocent was targeted by people who hate. Shocking because it happened to ordinary runners, people like me and you and millions of others all over the world dreaming of their first or their perfect marathon. It just didn't make any sense. Why on earth would you target runners? Why?
As events unfolded, it became clear this wasn't just about runners. Friends and family, strangers and colleagues who cheered and waved as runners reached their marathon's end were killed and mutilated. A young boy watching his father. A restaurant manager who stood at the finishing line almost every year. A young graduate student from China. That this horrible frightening thing had happened to the people who stand and cheer us on seemed even more unfair and grotesque.
Shock became anger. It's bad enough to do this to runners, we who have chosen to do this mad thing, but to hurt our supporters, our posse, innocent bystanders; the strangers who smile and wave and cheer us on? It just didn't compute. It seems doubly unfair.
I thought back to Lochaber and the wonderful support of the folk who waved and smiled me over the long hard slog. The folk waiting for me at the finish line more than 5 hours later and who gave me a massive hug looking almost as pleased as I did! The marshals who made me laugh out loud and kept me safe and hydrated; the people waving from their doorsteps and windows who gave me a thumbs up or a word or two of encouragement. The group of folk who cheered as I ran towards them, making me look round before I realised they were cheering me! I felt like Mo Farah! The scouts who handed out lucozade and the lovely little girl in pink who waved from the bus stop and offered me a drink. None of them different to the supporters in Boston.
I thought about all the support I'd got from Ali. Not just him popping up here and there to cheer me on and hand me a hot cuppa at the end. Ali who spent over 5 hours wondering if I was going to make it round or not and never let on how worried he was. Who never complained about my dark o'clock rises to run before work or commented when I walked down the stairs like I was 125 years old groaning and wincing on ever step. The weekends eaten up by long runs followed by hours of stretching and rolling round on lumps of foam and tennis balls. The tyranny of the training schedule which determined when we could walk or cycle and when I had to rest and eat. The timetabling of holidays round the marathon schedule. The incessant worrying about aches, pains and pace. I'm sure there must be many times our loved ones would dearly like to tell us to sit down and have a rest, but bite their tongues.
None of us run a marathon on our own and the bombers have hurt badly the people who give so much purely to see their loved ones pursue a dream or to encourage a stranger.
The London Marathon is going to be an even more special run than usual. It is the first major marathon since Boston and it will point to the future of running across the world. Every runner out on Sunday is making a statement on behalf of every one of us who have donned trainers and hit the streets. Every person helping, supporting, waving is also making a stand against bullying and terror on behalf of us all. Everyone at the London Marathon carries with them the admiration and hopes of runners and those who support us across the world.
So yes, we are runners, we are strong and we will run on. But we are also the ones who stand and wave. On Sunday, we will all be strong and we will be united. Together we will honour the marathoners and their supporters from Boston, London and every other race.
Very special thoughts to Celina, Kaz, Denis, Michelle and Zoe who are running on Sunday. Remember your posse - real and virtual - are right there behind you waving you on. Know you are strong and have a totally brilliant day!
Whether you're running or waving, have a great marathon.