Until this morning, everything since Monday afternoon has sort of been a blur. I haven’t been able to focus on work. I haven’t been able to sit down and write the race reports for the two 50ks I ran the days before the bombing. I really haven’t been able to focus on much of anything except what happened Monday afternoon around 2:50pm.
Today I awoke well rested – finally – and committed to living in the present and being thankful today. The events of Monday will continue to haunt me for some time I’m sure. I was about 2 blocks from the bombing — just .5 miles from the finish line. It had been an amazing morning from the moment the alarm went off. It all started as I sleepily but with such excitement, sipped on my spiked coffee (I had run 2 50ks in the days prior and told my boyfriend that the only way I was waking up before 4am AGAIN was if he poured a little Bailey’s in my coffee) on the way to the Battle of Lexington reenactment. Ken’s coworkers said we should go since we are about to move. We enjoyed the reenactment as much as one can when sleepy and cold, and then headed back to Boston. Ken cooked me a delicious egg scramble with veggies and salmon and avocado. We enjoyed each other’s company and then biked over to the Boston Beer Works for a beer with some of his co-workers before hopping on the bikes again to head to the spot we would watch the marathon right around the corner of Hereford and Comm Ave.
We arrived there around 10:30 or 11 and set up our space along with our friends, Luciana, Kevin, and Buggy. As the handcyclists whirred by, I was down on the blanket scratching away at signs for each of our friends who would be running that day. I would look up and scream, “Woohoo!” and “Way to go!”, completely impressed by their strength and speed. I finished the signs, and nuzzled in between Luciana and a little girl about 7 years old, whose parents were behind us. She was enthralled with the race and I enjoyed watching her cheer. I was greatly anticipating the elite women and was so excited to see Shalene and Kara run by. I cheered and snapped picks, proud of the American women’s display, even though they weren’t winning.
Later I saw Joan Benoit Samuelson finishing up her race that will go down as an age group record. I also saw Dean Karnazes run right by. Then so many more runners. The faces of many marathoners are complicated. I like looking at them. I can relate — I know I have been on similar journeys. So many faces full of pain, joy, and triumph all at once. They were only a half mile away from the finish. They had done it. Post-race plans were about to come to fruition. Hugs, high-fives, well-earned beers and burgers were just around the corner. My friends went by. I waved signs and jumped up and down and was so excited to see Adrian and Bethany glide past on their way to the finish line. I looked for but missed my friends Justin and Mary.
As I continued to watch, interesting, 3-5 second stories unfolded in facial expressions and strides. There were two masters runners who ran by and right before taking the turn onto Hereford the one in front by only a few strides turned back, saw his competitor behind him, smiled a smile that said, “Damn it, I thought I’d lost him.” He proceeded to turn it up a notch and for the next several minutes I wondered who would win that race. Then, a bit later, there was was another Master’s runner who stood out. I leaned over to one of my friends and commented on his age on the back of his Masters bib – 78. He was moving along and looked strong. I noticed his hair, all askew and longer in some places than others telling me day-to-day he had a combover, but a style like that didn’t stand a chance after 26 miles. I commented that I hoped I was still running like him when I was his age.
I continued to look for a couple more of my friends who I was expecting to see any minute. Then, the first bomb. The moment the first bomb went off Ken, and our friend Adrian, who had finished the race and walked over to meet us, and I all looked at each other, then looked to the sky. It sounded eerily like thunder from above, but it wasn’t cloudy and we all knew that wasn’t it. Then, the second blast. Those weren’t cannon blasts from some sort of Patriot’s Day event. Not thunder. I said the word we were all thinking – bomb. Ken said not yet, not to say that yet, we didn’t know. He was right, but I knew. I guess we all did. I had never heard anything quite like it. I’d never felt anything like it either. It went through me. In those seconds after the second bombing, I scoured twitter, watched police officers huddle, each with one hand on their weapon and their other hand over ear learning what had happened. A faint smell of smoke drifted into our space. Then, a female police officer ran into street. She commanded that everyone get behind the barricades, off the race course. Some runners went around her. I mean, they were .5 miles from the finish and I probably would have done the same thing. Those who went around were stopped by others and the number of those who stalled upon command, unknowing of the misfortune they missed by only minutes, began growing.
We gathered up our things, the posters I worked on for nearly an hour crinkled up and stuffed into a nearby trash can as we walked toward the Mass Avenue bridge to cross back over into Cambridge where we live. As we walked, we tried to call friends and family. Often our calls were met with that frustrating automated tone and voice informing us that our calls couldn’t be completed as dialed. We quickly got word that the friends who had been with us earlier in the day were okay. We continued to walk quickly home, checking behind us again and again, talking to family when we got through. I only got one call through and it was to my grandma. I just said, “I’m okay. I can’t talk more now, but if you’re watching the news I don’t want you to be worried. I’m okay. We’re okay.” I hung up. After that, I wouldn’t get a call through for hours.
A group of friends who had taken the train into the city, along with Adrian, Ken and myself made it back to our Kendall Square apartment and were relieved. I offered drinks, beer, and food. Posted on Facebook to let friends and family know I was okay. Answered texts when they would come through. Cooked for our guests – eggs and veggies and sausage. Not a typical dinner meal, but it’s what we had that would easily feed 6, and it wasn’t a typical dinner. I drank sweet mixed drinks that furthered my daze. I wasn’t ready to think about it all.
That night in bed, holding Ken close, I realized how fortunate we all were. I thought about those who had lost lives and limbs and were struck with numerous pieces of shrapnel. I cried. Those things are still weighing heavy on me now — the loss of life and the loss of innocence of the run. I’m jumping and even crying when I hear loud noises. The news is proving to be too much, and I have found myself sitting alone in a quiet room doing nothing after switching off the radio or tv. Maybe what makes it hurt so much more is that running is where I turn when tragedy hits in my life. When stress becomes too much. When I need a break. When my mom died suddenly, I ran. I ran fast – sub 6 minute mile repeats on the treadmill because I was angry. When I was lonely and didn’t have many friends after just moving to Memphis, I created a running club. When work becomes to much, I long to run and do. Now, that my very cheap and effective therapy has been tainted, blackened, by some fucking asshole(s), I’m angry and sad. And, at the same time, so amazed and touched by the heroic actions of so many. I’m touched by the kindness and bravery. This city, so often thought of as hardened and full of “Massholes” is a place full of good hearted people–full of “helpers”.
These last few days have been made harder still because, I’m ready to personally take back what some cowardly terrorist tried to take away — I’m ready to reclaim my running, but I’ll have to wait. I’m dealing with an injury that occurred near the end of the DRB 50k on Sunday and I’m unable to run. But I know that even if I can’t run until Massanutten in mid-May, those 103.7 miles will be spent reclaiming what is mine and yours. We each run for so many reasons and we won’t stop. We have and will continue taking back what is ours. I know that I’m going to be running faster and harder and with more heart than ever before. I’m sure you will be, too.
And after Massanutten, I’ll be focused on qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon because it matters. Because, it’s mine.
By the way, it ends up that the 78 year old Masters runner who I had commented on to friends moments before the bombs went off was Bill Iffrig, who was blown down by the blast when he was just feet from the finish. After being helped up by police officers he ran and crossed the finish.
He didn’t give up, and neither will we.