Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston Marathon: A Day of Celebration Turns into a Day of Tragedy

 As I sit here, I have a hard time processing how something that began so happy, can leave me aching and empty.

We planned out our day very methodically, I do have an engineer for a husband after all!  We planned out exact times and locations to catch our runners, then drive to the next location to catch them again.  Jim has a lot of successful experience with catching me at multiple locations during my races, so we planned to do the same here.  Our two year old daughter was supposed to spend the day with grandma while we went to the race, but that morning demanded to go with us.  We knew we may not be able to execute our plan as we had once hoped....but we would try.  

Our first stop was about mile 5.5.  We were able to park at a school (no school today) and walk over the railroad bridge to be alongside the course.  We staked out a spot and within minutes caught my friend Anna's boyfriend, Jason, cruise by us at a 6:45 pace.  I screamed his name and he saw us.  We then caught Anna fly by at a 7:15 pace.  I couldn't believe we had caught them with all the runners running that day!

People were loving my sign!  I got lots of smiles and lots of laughs.  I even had someone stop, hand Jim her phone and have Jim take her photo with me!  I asked her for her name....shout out Sally Bowles! 
For those who are not familiar, the Unicorn is the symbol of the Boston Marathon.  "Chosen by the founding members of the Boston Athletic Association in 1887 -- ten years prior to the inaugural Boston Marathon -- the Unicorn is believed to have been chosen as the organization's symbol due to its place in mythology. In Chinese and other mythologies, the Unicorn represents an ideal: something to pursue, but which can never be caught. In pursuit of the Unicorn, however, athletic competitors can approach excellence (but never fully achieve it). It is this pursuit to push oneself to his or her own limit and to the best of one's ability which is at the core of athletics. And for this reason, as the marathon matured, that the B.A.A. also decided that the Unicorn would be the appropriate symbol for the marathon" - per Boston Athletic Association

I was so happy to be able to return the favor to runners.  When I am running, I love to get a good chuckle out of the signs spectators hold.  I love being told that "I am looking good" and "Congrats".  It helps me through and I hope I was able to provide that to some today. Spectators Rock!  I just loved the spirit and enthusiasm of the race though.  Most races, even big races, you get pockets of fans cheering.  Well, at Boston even out in the 'burbs it was packed solid of cheering fans and blaring music, so a runner would get a full 26 miles of solid crowd support.  Boston is a truly special and historic race.  Competitor Magazine did a great article here on what makes it so special. 

While handing out high fives, I was just reminded of how wonderful the running community is.  We support each other....all paces, genders, races, ages.... we are one and it is amazing

We got in the car and moved ahead to mile 13.5 and there we were able to catch Anna again, who was on the other side of the road but sprinted over full tilt and full of smiles to give us a very powerful high five!   Shortly afterwards, a runner from our neighborhood in DC (Christine Stephan) flew by and called out my name!  We had caught another runner we knew...amazing! We had already missed Jason, but we plugged in Rebecca Conroy's bib number and decided to wait to catch her as she went by.  As a brand new mom, she was running in honor of her mother and mother-in-law loosing their battles with cancer.  She had deferred last year because she found out she was pregnant with her beautiful son.  We caught her and I hope we were able to lift her spirits during the mid-way point....where it starts to get tough!  We also caught a friend from high school, Lindsey Mason, who was running for charity as well!  Couldn't believe with the thousands running that day, we were able to catch every runner that we had planned to (and then some!).

We were ready to pack up and move in towards Boston to see the runners at Heartbreak Hill around mile 20.  There was a T stop there that we could catch to the finish if  it wasn't too crowded.  Well, Avery was demanding to go back home to Grandma's as she said she didn't want to see runners anymore.  Who can blame a 2-year old, it's probably not too exciting for her.  What we saw as a burden at the moment, turned out to be a blessing. 

We drove back home and when we went inside that's when we heard the news that 10 minutes prior explosions were reported at the finish line.  The local news was trying hard to figure out what happened, and we immediately texted our friends to make sure they were safe.  We heard back from everyone that they either finished and had left or were a few miles short of the finish and got diverted away safely.  We also got a lot of calls, texts, and facebook messages from friends and family around the country making sure we were safe, since we had just posted pictures of us along the course.  We probably would have been in the fray that day, if it were not for Avery.  My friend Christine who we were to meet at the finish said, "I was so sad that you, Jim and Avery didn't come down to the finish to meet me, but I truly think she may have saved us all".

The running community and the City of Boston continued to support each other and rise to the occasion after this senseless tragedy.  People have been trying to give blood (and reports were that they were turned away, but I will still try to give tomorrow), opening up their homes for stranded people to stay, etc.  Thank you to each and every one of you that reached out to make sure my little family and those close to me were all okay...through texts, emails, facebook and phone calls. 

My thoughts immediately went to fear and will this happen at another big marathon? London this weekend? Marine Corps Marathon I am running this fall? We can't allow the bad people in the world to dictate how we live and cause us to live in fear. 

My thoughts go out to those who lost their lives Monday.  Those who are hurt, gravely so.  My heart is hurting.  This was senseless and all I can ask is WHY?  This was a day to celebrate life, health and happiness...many running in memory of love ones they have lost to tragedy and illness.  A day like this to end the way it did, breaks my heart and leaves an emptiness. 
We tried as best we could to enjoy the rest of our week in Boston.  The city was somber and on edge.  The police presence was nothing like I had ever seen before.  Tents and police vehicles were on the Boston Common.  We still took our daughter to see the Make Way for Ducklings statue and made sure we were able to drink a pint of the famous Sam Adams 26.2 Brew in honor of the marathon.

What a week it was to be in Boston.  From the emotional highs of cheering on my runners in the marathon, to the lows of the bombings, to the grip of fear from the lock down and manhunt that ensued to catch those responsible.  We are back in D.C. now, but we will never forget.  This will go on for days, weeks, months, years as those injured try to adjust to their new normal.  Just as the families of those who lost their lives at the finish line and the family of fallen officer Sean Collier will never be the same.  

I wanted to congratulate each and every runner that ran on Monday.  Even if you did not finish and cross that blue line before the bombs went off, you will always be a Boston Marathon Finisher.

I am more determined than ever to Boston Qualify.  I will be now be putting in the hard work.  I can run a half marathon at a Boston Qualifying time (8:12 per mile) and will now attempt to run an additional 13 while holding that pace.  I can do this and if Boston is your dream, YOU CAN TOO!

XOXO, Live Free And (Now More Than Ever) Run


  1. Love pic with the ducks..super cute.

    1. My daughter loves those Ducks. We read Make Way for Ducklings all the time!