Heather’s 2013 Boston Marathon – Epilogue
April 15, 2013. Marathon Monday
It ’s a beautiful day to run 26.2, but I’ve woken up with a head cold. On the bus ride to Hopkinton, I poll my teammates from Somerville Road Runners: to take or not to take cold medicine, that is the question. I carefully charge my phone as much as I can. I’ll tweet and photograph this year’s race to distract myself from the fog in my head.
Several hours later, I’m settled into a comfortable pace and, while certainly not setting any personal records, am relatively pleased with how I feel overall. I meet my parents, who have Mackenzie, at the halfway point in Wellesley, then again at the Johnny Kelly statue in Newton. From there, they plan to head into Boston to meet me at the corner of Hereford and Boylston where I plan to take Mackenzie and run with her and Amber, my patient partner, to the finish line. What I didn’t know is that Tom, who was supposed to be at work, has actually taken the day off and is planning to surprise me near the finish line.
I then arrive at the 30k mark, Somerville Road Runner’s water stop. Overall, our team is having a relatively good day, although I’m told that there are a few stragglers still behind me battling injuries.
Above: Me and Mackenzie at the halfway point in Wellesley. Below: Me at the 30K mark and SRR water stop.
Just over a mile later, my phone starts to light up, flooded with messages. Tom breaks through with what will be my last phone call for hours. He’s at our house, not work, and is watching live coverage of two explosions at the finish line. We talk only for a minute, as I urge him to track down my parents and Mackenzie who were heading into Boston. Meanwhile, my fellow runners and I stop to ask the police and military personnel overseeing the course what we should do. For more than a half hour, there’s mass confusion, and in the absence of further information, we are told to keep moving forward. Finally, just a few feet from the top of Heartbreak Hill, we are told the race is over and are asked to stop.
Phone lines are completely tied up, but Twitter has become my new best friend. A half dozen friends are all trying to find ways to pick me up in Newton, following my tweets. In the meantime, I start walking back toward my running club’s water stop. Tensions are high, and I stumble into the midst of an argument between several police officers and two young men with noticeable accents. The argument escalates, and a chase ensues. I quickly step off the course, moving away from the chaos, and start walking in the direction of the Mass Pike.
After a few blocks, a car pulls over across the street from me, and a woman calls out to me. “Can I help you get to your family?” I pause, still in shock and not about to get into a car with a stranger. She then shares that she noticed my Dana-Farber singlet and that she is a Nashua firefighter being treated at Dana-Farber for bladder cancer. Karma. With a quick tweet letting people know I’m breaking Rule #1 (getting into a car with a stranger), I hop in. She insists on driving me the entire way home, and I think if I had lived in Sturbridge, she would have driven me there too.
Later that evening, I’ll send out an email to everyone who had received my annual Dana-Farber email.
Just a brief note letting you know that I’m okay. Tom called me as soon as the explosions happened and I was stopped at mile 20 shortly thereafter. A stranger drove me home. Tom had not headed in yet. Both my parents with Mackenzie and Amber’s family were also notified in time to stop before they headed in. We are all safe.
I have many friends from Somerville Road Runners, Dana-Farber and the running community that were either helping at the finish line or finishing around that time. We are trying to account for everyone. Please keep Boston in your prayers.
April 19, 2013
Just minutes after the remaining bombing suspect is captured just a few miles away in Watertown, I post to Facebook.
Some more serious thoughts on the day, the week. This all hit way too close to home. Monday was my 16th marathon overall, 15th Boston Marathon. I will never forget the call from Tom telling me that there had been two explosions. Then not being able to get through to my parents who were taking Mackenzie to the finish line to meet me. And phone calls with Amy and Amber, who were meeting me at mile 25, not going through. Suddenly Twitter, which I never really understood, became my best friend. Instead of tweeting the marathon for a second time, I was tweeting my location, my status. I was tweeting that I was getting into a car with a perfect stranger who insisted on driving me home -- did I mention she was a cancer survivor and firefighter and saw my Dana-Farber shirt?
Tom and I are very plugged into the Boston running community. At first, we thanked our lucky stars that no one in our running club or Dana-Farber team had been injured. But slowly, we learned otherwise. One of the women who died at the finish line was a vendor for a race we direct. One of her close friends, also gravely injured, dates a guy that we have known for years, another runner. We know the owner of Marathon Sports, where the first bomb went off, and many of his staff. An MIT police officer was killed last night - I worked at MIT for more than eight years and consider it home. This officer was also a member of the Somerville Auxiliary Police, which has supported Somerville Road Runner races since their inception. The suspects live in a neighborhood I drive through every morning on my way to work. Tonight, one was captured in a neighborhood that is one of my favorite cut-throughs.
This has been an exhausting week....and not just because I ran 20 miles of a marathon with not enough training. But it has also been uplifting. I have received phone calls, texts, emails and posts from friends near and wide. Co-workers dropped by my office just to quietly hug me or tell me they were happy to see me in the office. I think for once, no once complained about my lack of training and ridiculously slow marathon pace.
Hug your family and friends a little closer tonight. I've appreciated all the hugs, real and virtual, this week.
June 9, 2013
Nineteen members of the Somerville Road Runners were unable to finish Boston. Today, about half of us return to the 30K mark to finish the race and earn our medals.
Now nearly eight weeks after Boston, we waited to schedule this run until the initial media crush died down, and we could run the remaining 8+ miles without attracting attention. We are a motley crew. Some are far stronger runners than I and were caught in that much-photographed sea of runners stopped less than a half mile from the finish. Others were battling injuries or simply having a bad race. One, a veteran of more than 100 marathons, was running as a guide for an impaired runner. But as we coast up and down the infamous Newton hills, we stick together. As we stride into Cleveland Circle, I’m leading the pack, which would never happen under normal circumstances. It’s euphoric.
At Cleveland Circle, I stop and wait for my friend Kate, also a member of the club. What the rest of the group doesn’t know is that I’m a few weeks pregnant, and I’ve promised Tom that I would not run the entire distance. Kate, who herself is seven months pregnant, was only too happy to drive in and walk the last four miles with me.
With a right on Hereford and left on Boylston, we approach the finish line. We pause where the two bombs detonated. A newly planted tree is in front of The Forum, covered with messages and even a finisher’s medal. The pavement in front of Marathon Sports is new. If you look closely, you can see cracks in the façade of the building.
With no grandstand to approach, the finish line sneaks up on us. Many of our club members have stuck around to watch us finish. Before I left the house, I had tucked my finisher’s medal in my belt pack on impulse. With the others carefully watching the oncoming traffic, I put it around my neck and dart out onto the street to finally, officially finish.
The 2014 Boston Marathon cannot come fast enough…