April 17, 2013

Misty Watson: The community of runners

Misty Watson

— When I began my transition from being a non-runner to being a runner, I was amazed at how supportive the community of runners actually is.

I have several friends that run, and I can thank the positive peer pressure for getting me started. They continually offer words of encouragement, support, helpful advice and tips. Of course, there’s several stories of pain and injuries as well. (I’m just being able to run again after several weeks off because of a broken toe that caused crippling pain every time I came down on it.)

I will never forget the morning last summer I decided to attempt three miles, the longest I had ever run without stopping. I found a three-mile loop using mapmyrun.com that led me all through Chatsworth, and a portion of it included “The Loop,” a popular two miles of sidewalk through town. When I hit the section of “The Loop” I was running that morning, I met up with several others. Not a single one passed me by without saying “Good job this morning!” or “You’ve got this!” or “You’re doing great!”

The support that morning was overwhelming, and I know it’s what helped me finish.

The day I ran my first 5K on my 30th birthday last summer, having my husband and daughter at the finish line, along with several friends and fellow runners, cheering me on was uplifting and overwhelming.

There is no feeling like that — of knowing you’ve accomplished your goal and having people there to celebrate it with you.

 When I heard someone had bombed the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, my heart fell immediately.

It wasn’t even just “How could someone do that? How could someone hurt and kill others?” that ran through my head. It was also “How could someone destroy that exuberance? Why would someone target that kind of atmosphere?”

I immediately began to see myself as one of those runners, about to cross the finish line, explosion, chaos and the panic of “Is my family here cheering me on OK?”

It’s hard not to focus on the negative at a time like that, and it’s hard not to question “What’s this world coming to? You can’t even run a marathon anymore without worrying about your safety. Where can you go? What can you do?”

But then, as more images and stories were released, you begin to see the positive. You begin to remember the community of runners is strong and supportive.

I heard reports of runners literally running to nearby hospitals to donate blood. I heard reports of local runners, and other citizens, offering those who had traveled from around the world a place to stay when officials began encouraging everyone in Boston to move inside.

Then you begin to realize just how many people pull together to help others during a tragic event. I saw footage and photos where professional photographers stopped shooting to help people in need, where they stopped shooting to help officials move barricades to reach injured people quicker. I was proud of my profession. I was proud of those who realized helping others is more important.

And of course, the first responders and law enforcement officials always deserve tons of credit.

I keep seeing Internet memes containing a quote from Fred Rogers (one of my childhood heroes, by the way). The memes are all different, but they all have the same text: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

That’s great advice.

That’s what I’m choosing to do. Well, that and to keep running.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a photographer and staff writer for The Daily Citizen. You can connect with her through Twitter, @mistydwatson; Facebook, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN; or through email, mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com.