「Boston, from One Citizen of the World Who Calls Himself a Runner」を
Boston, from One Citizen of the World Who Calls Himself a Runner
In the past thirty years, I’ve run thirty-three full marathons. I’verun marathons all over the world, but whenever someone asks me which ismy favorite, I never hesitate to answer: the Boston Marathon, which Ihave run six times. What’s so wonderful about the Boston Marathon? It’ssimple: it’s the oldest race of its kind; the course is beautiful;and—here’s the most important point—everything about the race isnatural, free. The Boston Marathon is not a top-down but a bottom-upkind of event; it was steadily, thoughtfully crafted by the citizens ofBoston themselves, over a considerable period of time. Every time I runthe race, the feelings of the people who created it over the years areon display for all to appreciate, and I’m enveloped in a warm glow, asense of being back in a place I missed. It’s magical. Other marathonsare amazing, too—the New York City Marathon, the Honolulu Marathon, theAthens Marathon. Boston, however (my apologies to the organizers ofthose other races), is unique.
What’s great about marathons in general is thelack of competitiveness. For world-class runners, they can be anoccasion of fierce rivalry, sure. But for a runner like me (and Iimagine this is true for the vast majority of runners), an ordinaryrunner whose times are nothing special, a marathon is never acompetition. You enter the race to enjoy the experience of runningtwenty-six miles, and you do enjoy it, as you go along. Then it startsto get a little painful, then it becomes seriously painful, and in theend it’s that pain that you start to enjoy. And part of the enjoyment isin sharing this tangled process with the runners around you. Tryrunning twenty-six miles alone and you’ll have three, four, or fivehours of sheer torture. I’ve done it before, and I hope never to repeatthe experience. But running the same distance alongside other runnersmakes it feel less grueling. It’s tough physically, of course—how couldit not be?—but there’s a feeling of solidarity and unity that carriesyou all the way to the finish line. If a marathon is a battle, it’s oneyou wage against yourself.
Running the Boston Marathon, when you turn the corner at HerefordStreet onto Boylston, and see, at the end of that straight, broad road,the banner at Copley Square, the excitement and relief you experienceare indescribable. You have made it on your own, but at the same time itwas those around you who kept you going. The unpaid volunteers who tookthe day off to help out, the people lining the road to cheer you on,the runners in front of you, the runners behind. Without theirencouragement and support, you might not have finished the race. As youtake the final sprint down Boylston, all kinds of emotions rise up inyour heart. You grimace with the strain, but you smile as well.
I lived for three years on the outskirts of Boston. I was a visitingscholar at Tufts for two years, and then, after a short break, I was atHarvard for a year. During that time, I jogged along the banks of theCharles River every morning. I understand how important the BostonMarathon is to the people of Boston, what a source of pride it is to thecity and its citizens. Many of my friends regularly run the race andserve as volunteers. So, even from far away, I can imagine howdevastated and discouraged the people of Boston feel about the tragedyof this year’s race. Many people were physically injured at the site ofthe explosions, but even more must have been wounded in other ways.Something that should have been pure has been sullied, and I, too—as acitizen of the world, who calls himself a runner—have been wounded.
This combination of sadness, disappointment, anger, and despair isnot easy to dissipate. I understood this when I was researching my book“Underground,” about the 1995 gas attack on the Tokyo subway, andinterviewing survivors of the attack and family members of those whodied. You can overcome the hurt enough to live a “normal” life. But,internally, you’re still bleeding. Some of the pain goes away over time,but the passage of time also gives rise to new types of pain. You haveto sort it all out, organize it, understand it, and accept it. You haveto build a new life on top of the pain.
Surely the best-known section of the Boston Marathon is HeartbreakHill, one in a series of slopes that lasts for four miles near the endof the race. It’s on Heartbreak Hill that runners ostensibly feel themost exhausted. In the hundred-and-seventeen-year history of the race,all sorts of legends have grown up around this hill. But, when youactually run it, you realize that it’s not as harsh and unforgiving aspeople have made it out to be. Most runners make it up Heartbreak Hillmore easily than they expected to. “Hey,” they tell themselves, “thatwasn’t so bad after all.” Mentally prepare yourself for the long slopethat is waiting for you near the end, save up enough energy to tackleit, and somehow you’re able to get past it.
The real pain begins only after you’ve conquered HeartbreakHill, run downhill, and arrived at the flat part of the course, in thecity streets. You’re through the worst, and you can head straight forthe finish line—and suddenly your body starts to scream. Your musclescramp, and your legs feel like lead. At least that’s what I’veexperienced every time I’ve run the Boston Marathon.
Emotional scars may be similar. In a sense, the real pain begins onlyafter some time has passed, after you’ve overcome the initial shock andthings have begun to settle. Only once you’ve climbed the steep slopeand emerged onto level ground do you begin to feel how much you’ve beenhurting up till then. The bombing in Boston may very well have left thiskind of long-term mental anguish behind.
Why? I can’t help asking. Why did a happy, peaceful occasion like themarathon have to be trampled on in such an awful, bloody way? Althoughthe perpetrators have been identified, the answer to that question isstill unclear. But their hatred and depravity have mangled our heartsand our minds. Even if we were to get an answer, it likely wouldn’thelp.
To overcome this kind of trauma takes time, time during which we needto look ahead positively. Hiding the wounds, or searching for adramatic cure, won’t lead to any real solution. Seeking revenge won’tbring relief, either. We need to remember the wounds, never turn ourgaze away from the pain, and—honestly, conscientiously,quietly—accumulate our own histories. It may take time, but time is ourally.
For me, it’s through running, running every single day, that I grievefor those whose lives were lost and for those who were injured onBoylston Street. This is the only personal message I can send them. Iknow it’s not much, but I hope that my voice gets through. I hope, too,that the Boston Marathon will recover from its wounds, and that thosetwenty-six miles will again seem beautiful, natural, free.
Translated, from the Japanese, by Philip Gabriel.
Haruki Murakami’s most recent book to appear in English is “IQ84.” His latest novel has just been published in Japan.
Illustration by Ed Nacional.