Monday, April 22, 2013

From tragedy, runner emerges with new resolve

Demi Clark, 1/4-mile from the finish last Monday
The following column was written by Demi Clark, 36, of Fort Mill. According to at least one photograph, the timing clock read 4 hours, 9 minutes and 44 seconds when the first bomb was detonated at the Boston Marathon last Monday. Clark's official gun time for the race: 4 hours, 9 minutes and 46 seconds.

It's Sunday night. I just tucked my kids into bed, almost identically to the way I have every night of their short first- and third-grade lives. Kisses, plus a hug, and an "I love you." The only addition -- which has been part of the routine since Monday, April 15 -- "Do you all feel safe tonight? Mommy and Daddy are here if you need us."

My husband and I not only consider ourselves lucky to ask that question every night, we are downright grateful and blessed to do so. The parents of precious 8-year-old Martin Richard can't do that anymore. The parents of Krystle Campbell and Lü Lingzi can no longer call their children and ask, "Do you feel safe tonight?" And countless families are still in the hospital, supporting loved who are in critical condition, or without limbs, who face long, long roads ahead. That's thanks to two terrorists, who have changed the world as all of us know it.

I happened to be "that girl with the pigtails" who was 10 feet from the finish line of the Boston Marathon as the first bomb exploded and we found ourselves in a war. I say "war," because I'm also a health coach. I have clients who are soldiers currently downrange in Afghanistan; they called me later, saying we all earned our "combat stress" badge that day. The sights, sounds, smells, and horror are all still very fresh in my memory. Yet I NEVER want to forget. If we forget, we can't change the future for the better.

I also coach Girls on the Run, and nothing is more rewarding than seeing those 9- to 11-year-olds happy, healthy, active. Their actions and their attitudes inspire others to get off their iPads and move. They help make the world a happier, healthier place.

Happy, healthy people don't place handmade bombs next to 8-year-old children, knowing the immense destruction that will follow. Happy, healthy people do things like participate in the Boston Marathon; happy, healthy people have raised $127.9 million since the Boston Marathon Charity Program started in 1989.

So, today is not the day to scream at the guy who cuts you off in traffic. It's not the day to eat a can of frosting because you can start eating healthy tomorrow. (I had an eating disorder for two decades -- trust me, it won't make you feel better.) It's not the day to ignore your mom. Or your children. It's not the day to work late -- for the 100th day in a row.

It IS the day to pay it forward. Take your dog for an extra-long walk. Buy your neighbor a Starbucks. Lace up your shoes for the first (or one-thousand and fifty-first) time. Our lives have a true purpose. Honor yours by being good to yourself, taking care of your body, and being HAPPY and HEALTHY. Runners have a "runner's high" for a reason -- those endorphins are scientifically proven to make us happier. Runners truly love what they do. I haven't met too many angry ones. Runners wanting to be faster? Yes. Angry? No.

In coaching, we have a saying: "So what? Now what?" I've asked myself that a million times in the past week. What are the odds of me being right there at that horrific moment (with my family right there in the finish-line bleachers), with 26,999 other runners ahead of or behind me? Why was I spared, without so much as a scratch on my body? I will never know the answer. But what I do know is that I'm still here -- and now, I feel this overwhelming need to inspire people.

My goal then, from here on out, is to motivate as many people as possible to get off the couch. I want to urge everyone to draw up a vision board, to decide on a goal, then to make it happen. I have a quote from Homer on my home-office desk that says, "Go forth confidently in the direction of your dreams!" It has served as my internal compass for  years. Find yours. Faith over fear, life worth not net worth -- whatever your quote, pick something that puts the fire in your belly to be better, and go do it. Let's get each other off the couch. It's OUR time to win.

Demi Clark's daughters, waiting for mom at the finish line


Anonymous said...

You go, girl. You have inspired me - started running again last week after 3 years of too much work and too little motion. Your words will keep me moving forward. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

It was not a War, it was a bad bad situation.

I don't want to diminish your tragic experience, but we have soldiers spending months in War.

I wish you the best. Keep running!

Anonymous said...

^^^ I don't think it's your place to say what kind of situation it was, especially because you weren't there.

This piece was very inspiring.

Bob said...

I was also mixed up in the event after my finish. First day back to work, and feeling fragile. Just as I was reading the post, I was about to stress-eat a box of chocolates. It's not frosting, but close. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Yes - it IS a war which just spilled over into Boston. Any soldier I know will agree. Demi - you rock!

Anonymous said...

I am praying that you may be healed Bob. hahaha

Anonymous said...

Normal people don't support the killing of innocent people overseas with drones. We've made our bed.

Anonymous said...

and if this is a "war" who is the enemy? every time we declare "war" on drugs, poverty etc, its just a complete boondoggle.

Amber said...

This is cool!

Ramona said...


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful sentiment! Will do! Thanks, Demi!