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Cummings: Patriot's Day

Patriot's Day was a training run for me. I woke up to a cold, crisp day with a clarity that matched the sky, which stretched out, unblemished, for miles around me, as I ran 4 miles up and over the dirt road hills of West Brattleboro.

I was thinking about the legendary Boston Marathon, one of the top six marathons in the world with runners from more than 70 countries. I wondered how my friend, Nancy Heydinger, was doing - running with her daughter. How I envied them! I thought of my daughter, Emma, a basketball player who preferred the rough play of Brooklyn ballers to the steady jogging of the streets. I also thought about my volunteer work for Nancy Heydinger’s Vermont group, Girls on the Run.

I first volunteered as a race helper, many years ago. I would help at the beginning - putting pinnies on girls ages 8 to 12 as they squealed with excitement for the big race day and the 5 K race for which they had trained all spring. I once ran along with a little girl who had been tempted to give up. I told her, “We’re all number 1 in this race, and it’s okay to walk a bit. So let’s walk a bit now...” She smiled and laughed as we held hands along South Main Street in Brattleboro, and people cheered us on even though we were walking. We were both excited when she finished.

I love to run — I’ve been at it for more than 20 years now: The Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day on Upper Dummerston Road sponsored by the Red Clover Rovers and the Brattleboro Outing Club, the Bill Powers Firecracker 4th of July 5-miler, and this coming weekend’s Race for the Reason at The School for International Training... all Brattleboro traditions. All community races that bring people together for a cause usually – as well as the sheer joy of running. But none is more of a tradition than the Boston Marathon.

I was stunned by the video showing the blast with rescue workers huddled around the injured; by the news story about a woman who ran with "Mom" and "Dad" painted on her shins - whose mom was watching and severely injured; and by the older runner who fell as one bomb went off – only to rise again and finish the race.

That last image gives me hope. I want to believe that to walk, to travel wide, to run across the plains of the earth is important. I want to remember that rather than being afraid or made to feel like a victim, we can push forward to do good in the world; that the act of running is an ancient rite, and a universal action that joins us all.