when you can’t keep running, keep breathing

As the nation recovers from the horrible bombings at the Boston Marathon this week, and as Boston recovers from the manhunt today, in other parts of the country, people are preparing for another marathon. The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon will be held in eight days. The race began in 2001, in memory of those who died in the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. The marathon, scheduled for April 28th, invites runners from the Boston Marathon to run for free, either from the beginning or wherever they left off, so they will have the opportunity to finish the race that ended too early on  Monday.
I don’t know how the numbers have been affected by the events of this week, but the races are very full and the Memorial 5k and Kids’ Marathon are both sold out.

There’s a ‘We’ll show you!” bravado in humanity that I love, and I expect many races will have huge turnouts and audiences in the coming months, as runners announce, “We are not intimidated!” with every footfall. And that’s great.

And yet.
There will be people who are physically unable to run.
And there will be people who aren’t ready yet.
And there will probably be people who show up at their next race, ready to continue running, and they will start shaking, with flashbacks and blurry vision and the more they want to continue, the more they will remember the fear, against their will. And they will not understand why something they love suddenly became so hard. I ache for those people. And I want them to know, they aren’t cowardly or messed up or letting anyone down.

As much as we praise the people who race again a week later, there will be people who try, but cannot do it. PTSD is a real thing. I’m not a runner so maybe it won’t mean much to hear me say this, but it is okay. Whether you are having symptoms of PTSD, or simply don’t feel ready to try again, it’s okay. Give yourself time. Get counseling or therapy if you need to.
No one can understand the pain of experiencing attack in a place you thought was safe, if they haven’t been there. And the panic and emotions that may revisit you, sometimes without warning, after a traumatic event are real and painful, sometimes debilitating. They have a physical effect on your body and heart rate. This isn’t ‘just in your head’.

You don’t have to turn around and run another marathon to be brave. You don’t have to prove your worth.

Sometimes, continuing with life, getting up, eating breakfast, going on with the day – all that is enough.
Some days, getting up is too much to handle. Some days, continuing to breathe is enough. That’s okay too.

Breathe in, breathe out.
Pace yourself.

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