I started running the Samaritans 5K (and occasionally winning “third place in my age group” medals) a few years back as a favor to a friend. That first year, it was cold and wet, but despite getting there early, the parking lots were already jammed. I was amazed not only by the turnout but by the spirit suffusing the day.
I don’t know what I expected, probably a lot of gloom exacerbated by the rain, but I found anything but. Although I was not running as part of a team, or carrying any particular loss, I was moved by the communities surrounding lost loved ones who came together, especially under adverse conditions, to do something. To say names out loud. To raise money so that Samaritans would be there and maybe there wouldn’t be a next time. To be courageous – not everyone is as casual about covering 5K as I have the luxury of being.
Samaritans 5K teams come from all walks of life. I consider the immensity of the loss suffered by so many - and the suffering that led so many to the place where there were no other options. But spending time with Samaritans means more than staring into the abyss. Those 5K teams, with support from Samaritans volunteers and staff, radiate courage, and hope. Samaritans provide that empowering place for communities to form, to come together, to share memories long after the grief is no longer fresh.
And then it got personal. Friends lost their teenage daughter last April. On Marathon Monday. With others from her school and faith communities, including a teen Samaritans volunteer, we formed a 5K team. Her parents told me that running was #7 on the list of 100 things that make her happy. I knew where to channel some of the grief. Team #7 Running raised more than $2000 in short order.
Running is high on the list of things that make me happy, too.
Boston will be my fourth marathon. I hadn't thought I needed to run Boston. Despite living here for more than 25 years and being a runner for most of that time, because I know I'll never qualify I never seriously considered running it. However, even before things got personal, when I learned Samaritans had numbers, the desire to run Boston overwhelmed me.
Boston is the marathon that needs no introduction. Rock stars run Boston. The world pays attention to this marathon. It's the marathon that everyone asks me if I've run, or am going to run, when I say I'm running a marathon. Runners from all over the world and superstars from running history converge. And don't forget the spiffy jackets.
This is Boston, this is the Samaritans, and my friends lost their daughter to suicide. For Shaira Yasmin Ali, for all who suffer. Please give generously.
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