Boston explosion Haruki Murakami

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    Boston, from One Citizen of the World Who Calls Himself a Runner

    by Haruki Murakami

    In the past thirty years, Ive run thirty-three full marathons. Ive run

    marathons all over the world, but whenever someone asks me which is myfavorite, I never hesitate to answer: the Boston Marathon, which I have run

    six times. Whats so wonderful about the Boston Marathon? Its simple: its

    the oldest race of its kind; the course is beautiful; andheres the most

    important pointeverything about the race is natural, free. The Boston

    Marathon is not a top-down but a bottom-up kind of event; it was steadily,

    thoughtfully crafted by the citizens of Boston themselves, over a

    considerable period of time. Every time I run the race, the feelings of the

    people who created it over the years are on display for all to appreciate,

    and Im enveloped in a warm glow, a sense of being back in a place I

    missed. Its magical. Other marathons are amazing, toothe New York

    City Marathon, the Honolulu Marathon, the Athens Marathon. Boston,

    however (my apologies to the organizers of those other races), is unique.

    Whats great about marathons in general is the lack of competitiveness.

    For world-class runners, they can be an occasion of fierce rivalry, sure. But

    for a runner like me (and I imagine this is true for the vast majority of

    runners), an ordinary runner whose times are nothing special, a marathon

    is never a competition. You enter the race to enjoy the experience of

    running twenty-six miles, and you do enjoy it, as you go along. Then itstarts to get a little painful, then it becomes seriously painful, and in the

    end its that pain that you start to enjoy. And part of the enjoyment is in

    sharing this tangled process with the runners around you. Try running

    twenty-six miles alone and youll have three, four, or five hours of sheer

    torture. Ive done it before, and I hope never to repeat the experience. But

    running the same distance alongside other runners makes it feel less

    grueling. Its tough physically, of coursehow could it not be?but theres

    a feeling of solidarity and unity that carries you all the way to the finish

    line. If a marathon is a battle, its one you wage against yourself.

    Running the Boston Marathon, when you turn the corner at Hereford

    Street onto Boylston, and see, at the end of that straight, broad road, the

    banner at Copley Square, the excitement and relief you experience are

    indescribable. You have made it on your own, but at the same time it was

    those around you who kept you going. The unpaid volunteers who took the

    day off to help out, the people lining the road to cheer you on, the runners

    in front of you, the runners behind. Without their encouragement and

    support, you might not have finished the race. As you take the final sprint

    down Boylston, all kinds of emotions rise up in your heart. You grimacewith the strain, but you smile as well.

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    * * *

    I lived for three years on the outskirts of Boston. I was a visiting scholar at

    Tufts for two years, and then, after a short break, I was at Harvard for a

    year. During that time, I jogged along the banks of the Charles River every

    morning. I understand how important the Boston Marathon is to the people

    of Boston, what a source of pride it is to the city and its citizens. Many of

    my friends regularly run the race and serve as volunteers. So, even from

    far away, I can imagine how devastated and discouraged the people of

    Boston feel about the tragedy of this years race. Many people were

    physically injured at the site of the explosions, but even more must have

    been wounded in other ways. Something that should have been pure has

    been sullied, and I, tooas a citizen of the world, who calls himself arunnerhave been wounded.

    This combination of sadness, disappointment, anger, and despair is not

    easy to dissipate. I understood this when I was researching my book

    Underground, about the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and

    interviewing survivors of the attack and family members of those who

    died. You can overcome the hurt enough to live a normal life. But,

    internally, youre still bleeding. Some of the pain goes away over time, but

    the passage of time also gives rise to new types of pain. You have to sort

    it all out, organize it, understand it, and accept it. You have to build a new

    life on top of the pain.

    * * *

    Surely the best-known section of the Boston Marathon is Heartbreak Hill,

    one in a series of slopes that lasts for four miles near the end of the race.Its on Heartbreak Hill that runners ostensibly feel the most exhausted. In

    the hundred-and-seventeen-year history of the race, all sorts of legends

    have grown up around this hill. But, when you actually run it, you realize

    that its not as harsh and unforgiving as people have made it out to be.

    Most runners make it up Heartbreak Hill more easily than they expected

    to. Hey, they tell themselves, that wasnt so bad after all. Mentally

    prepare yourself for the long slope that is waiting for you near the end,

    save up enough energy to tackle it, and somehow youre able to get past

    it.

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    The real pain begins only after youve conquered Heartbreak Hill, run

    downhill, and arrived at the flat part of the course, in the city streets.

    Youre through the worst, and you can head straight for the finish line

    and suddenly your body starts to scream. Your muscles cramp, and your

    legs feel like lead. At least thats what Ive experienced every time Ive run

    the Boston Marathon.

    Emotional scars may be similar. In a sense, the real pain begins only after

    some time has passed, after youve overcome the initial shock and things

    have begun to settle. Only once youve climbed the steep slope and

    emerged onto level ground do you begin to feel how much youve been

    hurting up till then. The bombing in Boston may very well have left this

    kind of long-term mental anguish behind.

    Why? I cant help asking. Why did a happy, peaceful occasion like the

    marathon have to be trampled on in such an awful, bloody way? Although

    the perpetrators have been identified, the answer to that question is still

    unclear. But their hatred and depravity have mangled our hearts and our

    minds. Even if we were to get an answer, it likely wouldnt help.

    To overcome this kind of trauma takes time, time during which we need to

    look ahead positively. Hiding the wounds, or searching for a dramatic cure,wont lead to any real solution. Seeking revenge wont bring relief, either.

    We need to remember the wounds, never turn our gaze away from the

    pain, andhonestly, conscientiously, quietlyaccumulate our own

    histories. It may take time, but time is our ally.

    For me, its through running, running every single day, that I grieve for

    those whose lives were lost and for those who were injured on Boylston

    Street. This is the only personal message I can send them. I know its not

    much, but I hope that my voice gets through. I hope, too, that the Boston

    Marathon will recover from its wounds, and that those twenty-six miles will

    again seem beautiful, natural, free.

    Translated, from the Japanese, by Philip Gabriel.

    Haruki Murakamis most recent book to appear in English is IQ84. His

    latest novel has just been published in Japan.

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