In the last 22 years I’ve run 127 marathons. I’ve run the Boston Marathon three times, the last time on April 15th, 2013, when a celebration of life and community turned into a horrible nightmare. I had finished a little less than an hour before the bombs went off, and was walking across the Boston Commons towards my rental car, having just connected by cell phone with my friend Jose Aponte who finished a little after me. We had traveled together. Though he now lives in California, we had synched flights and shared a rental car and hotel, and now we were trying to link up in order to go to the airport, go home, and go to work the next day. While we were talking Jose exclaimed that two large explosions had gone off and he could see white smoke rising from near the finish line. He said they sounded like ordinance from Camp Pendleton. I waited for him to join me on the Boston Commons and we continued to the rental car, while we picked up conversations, watched every ambulance and fire truck and police car in Boston drive to the scene, all the while my cell phone filled up with text messages and voice mails from concerned friends, family, and colleagues.
I didn’t go to run Boston this year for a PR or even to run a fast marathon. Indeed my time that day was my slowest road marathon ever. I wanted to run Boston this year for the Boston experience. That experience includes the spectacle of the expo, one of the largest and most exciting of any marathon. I bought a Boston Marathon jacket for $100 even though I surely don’t need any more jackets. As I waited for the race to start in the school grounds in Hopkinton I looked at the thousands of fellow runners and I thought “this is my tribe.” I had a pretty good seed, based on my qualifying time, so I started with the first wave. I knew though that I would not be running very fast because of some health problems that have affected my training, so I settled in to enjoy the day.
Everybody knows about Heartbreak Hill. Well, there are actually a series of three hills with the finale being Heartbreak Hill. Having run Boston twice before I knew what to expect and being from Colorado the hills were not an issue. It’s the five miles after Heartbreak that always kicks my ass. Muscles cramping, quads screaming, all while running downhill and the flats to the finish line, but every step of the way you’re running with your tribe, your friends. And spectators and supporters line every street and sidewalk to the finish at Copley Square.
There are more than 25,000 runners running Boston, and everyone has to qualify with a pretty decent time to run the event. In the 55-59 year age group I had run 3:17 at the Aspen Valley Marathon in order to qualify--the only road marathon I could squeeze into my schedule for a Boston qualifier was sandwiched between the Leadville Trail Marathon the preceding weekend and both the Hardrock 100 and Leadville 50 in the next weekend. But there are five times as many supporters, volunteers, cheerers; the entire race course is a festival. The Boston Marathon has been crafted by the citizens of Boston over 117 years. It is a uniquely Boston event and the entire city comes alive to celebrate life and community.
Why was this happy, joyful event attacked so brutally? We know who the perpetrators are, but we don’t know the answer to that question. Even if we were to get an answer, it wouldn’t help.
To overcome this kind of trauma takes time, time during which we need to look ahead positively. Revenge and scape-goating won’t lead to any real solution. We will remember the pain, and we will continue in our lives, accumulating the miles and the distance from that day as it recedes on the time horizon. It will take time, but time is our ally.
We’ll remember those who lost limbs and life on Boylston Street by running. The Boston Marathon will recover from its wounds, and soon those twenty-six miles will again be beautiful, natural, and joyous.