We all know how Boston ended yesterday. Originally, I planned to write a quirky race report about my sixth Boston marathon on April 15th--how I spent a winter torturing my running partner, Felix, to run hundreds of laps around King Farm Park with me in morning darkness in an effort to end my streak of flat lining at Mile 23; how my Montgomery County Road Runners Club (MCRRC) training group came together to successfully coach ourselves under the name Broderick to Boston in memory of our beloved coach Mike Broderick; and how I fought off the voice of negativity in my quest to redeem myself after running last year’s Boston with a chilly towel around my neck in 85 degree heat. I wish more than anything that I could write that race report, but I can’t because my sixth Boston culminated with the detonation of two bombs at one of the happiest places on earth--the Boston Marathon finish line.
The events leading up to the race did not disappoint this year. Between meeting Dick Hoyt with Coach Lisa at the expo and belting out Sweet Caroline at Fenway in seats just a few rows behind home plate with my wonderful family, I enjoyed a perfect Boston day before another perfect Boston day--Marathon Monday, a day that is so much more about spectating than running, as what makes this race so special is not the course itself, but the spectators eager to greet thousands of runners streaming through each town with deafening cheers, kisses, beers, massages and beautiful children eager to give high fives to every runner who will to take a moment to do so.
My biggest concern, like everyone else, was whether I would bomb my race. That word has now been erased from my vocabulary as a means to describe a race performance. With my Sandy Hook baseball hat in tow, I walked to the start line prepared to dedicate my 26 miles to the 26 victims of the Newtown tragedy without knowledge that yet another tragedy would occur that day.
Using my time from last year’s Boston, I was assigned to the third wave start at 10:40 armed with my own pacer, my friend Ken, a 2:40 marathoner who generously offered to pace me to hopefully a new personal record, while selflessly foregoing the opportunity to set his own personal record on a glorious day. The gun went off and we calmly began our journey from Hopkinton to Boston. My breathing was a bit off, but I remained calm and repeated my mantra, “Believe you can.” By mile 8, I was believing I couldn’t. Ken could tell I was dragging, and my thoughts wandered to leaving the course and calling it a day. I got myself together and kept going hoping that these negative feelings would disappear. They didn’t, and by mile 13, I knew I would not meet my expectations that day. I adjusted my goal, moved forward and focused on taking in the moments--seeing my husband and children along the course with their “run like a mutha” sign , my supportive friends and family all over the country tracking me online, and--my legs--how lucky I was to be out there running on a course that so many will never have the opportunity to experience. I crossed the finish line at approximately 2:15 pm. My time--3:28--about 10 minutes off my goal, but well within the qualifying time I needed to return next year, and at that moment, while still hyperventilating with my quads screaming, I couldn’t wait to return in 2014.
After receiving my medal and my drop bag, I made my way to the local watering hole, Fire and Ice, a few blocks away from the finish line, to meet my fellow MCRRC runners. Just minutes after entering the bar, reports of a bombing at the finish line began to materialize. CNN images on television were horrifying, and cell reception was non-existent. A nightmare was unfolding before us just blocks away as we remained inside confused, shaken to the core, and eager to find our fellow runners who had not yet arrived. Thanks to Facebook, all runners in our MCRRC family were accounted for within a relatively short period of time. Nonetheless, we are all family out there--spectators and runners alike--and members of our Boston family suddenly became victims of an unspeakable tragedy that instantly turned the finish line into a crime scene.
As we all grapple with this unfathomable act of terror, I find solace, like so many, in the reports detailing what occurred within moments of the blast. First responders, race volunteers, and bystanders exhibited extraordinary courage in response to the horrifying scene, while runners, exhausted from running 26.2, ran to nearby hospitals to give blood. The resilience and strength of the great people of Boston and the running community immediately surfaced in the midst of chaos and devastation at one of the most celebrated sporting events in the world.
The people of Boston are defiant--they will rise above the chaos, and, like thousands of other runners, I am undeterred and eager to proudly cross that finish line next April. As runners, we lost a part of our innocence yesterday, but we have not lost our determination, our deep appreciation for the great people of Boston and our love of crossing the finish line at the holy grail of running-the Boston Marathon. See you next year, Beantown, and until then, stand tall and know that runnahs all over the world are with you.