In New York, Washington, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Seattle and in many other U.S. cities and cities around the world people have gathered for “Run for Boston” events to offer tribute and support to victims of bombings at this year’s Boston Marathon. In Rochester on Saturday at Monroe County Community College’s Color Vibe, runners wore bracelets that said “Boston.” This was play with a purpose.
During a run in Buffalo’s Delaware Park, race organizer Beth Weinberg told me that she had registered about 2,000 supporters whose fees would go to the American Red Cross. But on this frosty Sunday volunteers continued to count more. She had set no distance for the race, no timekeeper kept records, and besides runners, the event accommodated walkers, parents pushing strollers, sorority sisters with mini American flags poked through their pony tails, not a few guys wearing Red Sox caps, at least two golden retrievers, and more than one teenager riding a skateboard.
At the finish line resilient runners gulped bottled water then sipped hot coffee from thermoses. I heard one or two beer tabs whoosh. Festivity like this turns citizens toward shared goals and often, happily, pulls them together in their pursuit. One scholar who studies play, the sociologist Thomas Henricks, calls this generous, openhearted group feeling “communitas.” The word has a hopeful, welcoming ring. At the finish line in Buffalo, with the Rolling Stones’ song “Start me Up!” playing in the background, speakers approached the microphone to say simply, “they can’t win,” “we won’t live in fear” and “knock us down and we bounce back up.”