I have always loved the city of Boston. I remember trips there when I was in high school. During college, it was the nearest city to our small town in New Hampshire. I had already accepted a job there after graduation when I was offered a Fulbright Fellowship so in the end I never ended up living in Boston. However, since I have been a runner I have gone up every year to experience the magic that is the Boston Marathon while staying with my best friend from college who lives two blocks from the finish line. In 2010 and 2011, I cheered with the NY Flyers at mile 17 and last year I cheered in front of the Apple Store on Boylston.
The day started with such excitement with my first bus ride out to Hopkinton. From the athlete’s village thousands of runners walked the .7 miles to the starting line to wait in eager anticipation for their journey to begin. The air horn sounded and after a few minutes I crossed the starting line and I was living in the moment I had been waiting for. I was running the Boston Marathon. However, beyond all the glitz and glamour, it is still a marathon. When the top of my left foot started hurting really badly out of nowhere before the 10k mark I realized it would be a long race, one that would hopefully involve more running than walking. At the 10k mark I tried to block it out by putting in my headphones and was able to hang on for a little while longer. However, after a few miles I knew it was a lost cause so I decided to take them out and enjoy the race as best I could. The half a million spectators that line the route are a large part of what make this race special and although I am not usually someone who needs spectators in a race, on Monday I am not sure could not have gotten through it without them. As I made the final left onto Boylston to the deafening roar of the crowd, I felt relief and happiness that I had made it. The time on the clock was 2:15:12pm.
I decided to make my first post race medical tent visit ever to check out my foot. I remember thinking it was well staffed as what seemed like a few nurses, a doctor and a head doctor examined my foot and deemed it a strain or possibly a fracture. After I checked out, I continued on my way down the finishers’ chute picking up my heat shield, medal and finally my gear bag. I was ready to forget about my foot and start celebrating. I was on Boylston and about to turn onto Arlington when time seemed to stop.
I knew what it sounded like, but I was at the Boston Marathon and could not comprehend something bad happening at what seemed like the vicinity of the finish line. I tried to convince myself I was freaking out for no reason but I could feel my heartbeat quicken and I wondered if there were more on the way as I moved as fast as I could toward our hotel. I luckily was able to get through to my parents and tell them to come straight to the hotel instead of family reunion. As I got into the hotel my friend texted me, “They stopped the marathon.” It was then I knew it was really bad. I called my coach to find out what was going on and learned that two bombs had exploded near the finish. People had died. I started crying hysterically. Everything is kind of a blur but thank you to everyone who checked to see that I was safe.
It’s hard to stop replaying things in one’s head. My mom was worried I was taking so long after I finished she had come to the finish line to look for me. She was a block away when the bombs went off. What if I had had to walk more during the race? I could have been right there and my friends cheering for me would still have been out there on Boylston instead of having lunch out of harms way. If I had stayed in the medical tent a few more minutes I would have been right there when it happened. This hit way too close to home.
I am lucky and so thankful that everyone I know is safe. It could have been so much worse. However, everyone in my extended runner family that includes both runners and those that support runners is not fine. I feel terrible that three people died and that hundreds suffered war-zone like injuries while supporting runners. Some of these people were out cheering when I ran by a little over a half hour earlier. They helped me during my race and I probably looked at some of their smiling faces. It was supposed to be a happy day for runner and spectator alike. The finish line of any marathon, but especially the Boston Marathon, is such a symbolic place of completing a journey. It is a happy place. The completely senseless act that destroyed that happy place makes me feel sick. I know others went through a lot worse, but I do not feel okay and I am not sure when I will again.
I will certainly never forget my first Boston. In the light of everything, the medal I wanted for so long seems so unimportant. I am proud of finishing the Boston Marathon but I have trouble finding joy in it. Running down Boylston toward the finish line I was not sure I wanted to do another downhill marathon for a very long time, but that changed relatively quickly. I, like every other runner alive, hope that next year I will be at the starting line in Hopkinton to conquer the course for myself and to celebrate the greatest marathon in the world.