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  • Around mile six, a little boy ran past me. “No more hurting people” was handwritten in black marker across the back of his shirt. I recognized the words from a photo of Martin Richard, the young boy who died in the Boston Marathon bombing. The boy who passed me had legs that looked too young and coltish to take him the whole way, but there he was. Running, I decided, for the little boy who couldn’t.

    It made me wonder, for the first time, why I was running. I’d arrived at the start line with an injured hip; I wasn’t chasing a personal record. I’d run this distance before, so I had no new milestone to achieve. Uncharacteristically, I had nothing to prove, and I couldn’t think of any real reason to do this to myself. Still, there I was. Running.

    Why?

    The young runner disappeared into the pack head as we passed a dozen kids playing ukuleles outside of their school. They were awake at 7AM on a Sunday just to give bunch of strangers reason to smile as they ran thirteen or twenty-six miles. A little further along, another boy stood solemn-faced in the middle of the road holding a bright green sign that said, “Touch here for power.” I did, and I ran faster.

    I thought about the block around mile three that smelled like bacon, its pajama-clad neighbors sharing coffee we passed. About the man wearing sunglasses who stood next to an inflatable dinosaur with a sign that begged: “Run quieter – I’m hungover.” Volunteers gave us water and Gatorade every few miles, and swept up all the empty cups we left on the ground. A woman dressed as a bee handed out honey-flavored candy on one side of the street; a girl held out her hand for high-fives on the other. All manner of different bodies carried themselves mile after mile after mile. Each had a different gait, a different motivation: people ran for causes, for loved ones, for themselves. Slowly, it dawned on me how rare it is to share a goal and a road with seven thousand other people, and to have just as many people cheering you through to the finish. My throat tightened up, and I fell into step with the runner beside me. I understood.

    It isn’t something I do to myself; it’s something I do with you.
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