On Monday morning, April 15th, 2013, the Boston University Track and Field Team practiced during the hours of 10AM and 12PM. It’s been team tradition that on days when classes are not in session, whether it is on Saturdays or holidays, we practice at 10AM. Marathon Monday is no different to us. We remind ourselves that our competitors don’t take the day off for Marathon Monday, so why should we?
It was a very productive session for the entire group. Acceleration Series ‘A’ warm up followed up with a short, explosive multi-jump series. For all sprinters and hurdlers, the first half of the session consisted of fairly heavy sled accelerations (~40-50lb for men; ~20-35lb for women) for 2 sets of 3 reps. The second half of the session consisted of 2 x 40m and 6 x 60m block starts for flat sprinters (both short and long), starts up to hurdle 4 for the short hurdlers, and starts to hurdle 1 for the long hurdlers. The finishing touch to the day was heavy medicine ball tosses, the usual suspects of over head back, between legs forward, etc. All in all a very intense, challenging, but productive day.
When the session was over some athletes scurried out to get lunch, some hung around and procrastinated the rest of the day, others went on to the next item on the checklist of a day. I stayed for a bit, chatting with athletes delaying their next move of the day. This part of practice, and just before the start when athletes arrive early, I’ve come to realize is truly my favorite part. It’s the time we can catch up on our daily lives, practices that have come and gone, are here today, and that will be here in the future. We strategize our next meets, we joke, we confide, we do all this and more. I cherish those times. The roles of coach and athlete fade just enough that we are people, conversing, sharing, and growing with each other.
The last athlete is done and I move on with my day: catching up on paperwork, and then getting a couple training sessions of my own in later in the day before planning to head home early. It’s then I hear the sirens. I only assume they are on their way to break up a house party down the street. Within minutes I go to my computer to see the awful truth of what’s taken place. Confusion, sadness, anger, all these emotions come together at once. My first thoughts are to my wife, whom I know to be at home todayâ€¦ but what ifâ€¦? After multiple calls fail she finally answers my text message. She is indeed home, safe and sound. I then call my family, both my parents and hers, to verify our safety. My heart was warmed with many outreaches to my own personal safety from family, friends, even a number of incoming recruits families. Once there was finally a long moment of silence it hits me: “None of our kids planned on being down there right? If they do they’re at a different part of the course, rightâ€¦?”
Subject: Marathon Check in
Please send in a response to this email to verify your safety in light of today’s tragedy at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Even a phone call or text message will suffice.
Short. Simple. Direct. 80 + recipients in all, including fellow coaches.
I printed out a roster, and I waited. Within minutes the first response came in. And another. And another. And a text. And another. “I’m fineâ€¦ I’m safe coachâ€¦ Me and X are here in the dorms coachâ€¦ Thanks for checking in Coachâ€¦”
As I check off each name, I realize my hands shaking, my breath is heavy, my heart is racingâ€¦ and I begin to cry. I’m crying. I, a “grown ass man,” am crying. It’s in this moment I’m truly reminded more than I have before in my life: these are not performances; these are not personal bests; these are not All-Americans; these are not conference champions and championships; these are not scholarship dollars; they are none of these things. These are people I care about and invest in. These are individuals I will call friend. These are shared memories. These some of the most positive influences I have in my life. These are my extended family members. They are all these things and more. I have faith in humanity because of people like them.
Thankfully, by the end of the evening all had checked in. Of the many things I and millions of others are able to take away from the tragedy that struck those at the Boston Marathon, a personal one for me in the coaching world is to always see the faces, not the numbers. Hear the voices, not the accomplishments. Most importantly, embrace relationships, not simply roles. I always have, and always will make this a priority. And while under the dark cloud of heartache I was reminded just how important these ideals are and just how precious life is. Here’s to you Boston, and here’s to all those we care about in life.