I had mulled for a while about whether to blog about Monday at all. My original goal had been to run the race as part of my training for the upcoming 50-miler at Bear Mountain, not worry too much about time, log the mileage and just have fun. My plan was to identify myself as The Powder Moose, and maintain the persona throughout the race. I’d high five, pump up spectators, talk to people, and If I was offered a beer, I’d drink it. Obviously the events of later in the afternoon drastically changed the outlook of what was designed to be a fun day. I’ve always enjoyed racing and competing, and ultimately feel that the race is just a celebration of effort that has predominantly already been banked. When something like this happens, it functions not only to cause carnage but also to steal from the joy given from something for which so many people have worked so hard and sacrificed for. That being said, I’m choosing to share some of my experiences from what was otherwise a fantastic day – I still think it’s important to celebrate those – as well as sharing my own experiences of the day’s later events.
Boston was my first standalone Marathon, which my others being as parts of Ironman distance races, and I ended up doing it on a whim, after only scoring the day off from work 10 days prior. Running as a bandit and training for a longer distance, my hope was to fully embrace that status, worrying less about my time and more simply about finishing and having fun. I think I succeeded on those accounts.
Running as a bandit is a tacitly accepted part of the race, with a throng of unregistered runners waiting patiently for those who earned entry through qualification or by raising money. As far as I could tell, I was literally the last person to depart, as I had been pulling off my warm-ups and sweatshirt as the rest of the group was allowed to set off. The most striking thing about the whole race was the fan support along the route. Having attended along the route as it enters Boston-proper last year, I had obviously been aware of the atmosphere, but I was impressed by how consistent the enthusiasm was along the course. It was only 3 miles in before I was asked by a drunk guy at a roadside house party to dump a beer on his head, which I was happy to do for him.
I had also marked my shirt with my Powder Moose moniker, which seemed to be a crowd pleaser. Any time I got the cheer, I’d give my moose antlers and the occasional moose charge, which seemed to get the people going. The BC students in particular seemed to like that one, and I ended up mostly moose-charging and high fiving my descent from Heartbreak Hill.
After getting the obligatory Wellesley College-girl kiss on the cheek, I got to check in with the gang a half mile up the road. After a quick stop and a chest bump with Easy E, I was on my way again. The second half of the race featured the series of 3 hills (half Solo-cup of beer at the top of each) as well as the liveliest crowds (BC students win, hands-down).
It was in the final home stretch down Comm Ave where the day’s events took a drastic turn. My race clock read 4:18 and I would estimate myself to be about 1/3 of a mile from the finish line when I noticed a casually clad person walking slowly in the middle of the course – obviously not a runner. Honestly, not knowing what was going on, I almost yelled at the person for being on the course before I noticed something strange – everyone else on the course was walking as well. Word trickled back through the line pretty quickly with lots of rumors and theories – some that ended up being true and some not. What was clear was that there was an explosion and that there were injuries.
At that point, my race was over. I had been expecting to meet my friends and girlfriend in Copley, where they were trying to catch me finish the race. I hopped a small fence and borrowed a cell-phone, but amid the crowds it was impossible to get a phone call to connect and it ended up taking 40 minutes to get a text exchange on a phone someone was nice enough to let me borrow before I was able to reconnect and hike across the BU bridge to Cambridge where we were finally able to catch a bus home. Although their plan was to head towards the finish line area to greet me, they were behind schedule and had only emerged from the Prudential parking garage when the explosions occurred. At this point I was just glad we all found each other.
As mentioned, I had been really hesitant about how to approach this post, or if even to write about my experiences at all. How can you write about something so positive and fun when so many people suffered on that day? Ultimately I think it comes down to the fact that just because someone tries to take it away, doesn’t mean that it negates all the experiences and accomplishments that others got out of the day – I think it’s important to celebrate those too.