It’s not the feeling you want to have when you’ve run 26 miles in Boston

Putting my 2013 Boston experience on paper is a very difficult thing for me to do, but I am going to give it my best shot! Getting to run the Boston Marathon was one of the most exciting, yet scariest times of my life. It was an amazing opportunity, and I am already looking forward to being there again next year. However, the bombing was definitely the unfortunate part of my Boston experience.

Running the Boston marathon was a long-standing dream for me. Having learned how the process worked, I knew getting entered could be difficult, a bit complicated, and stressful! Little did I know my qualifying would be the least nerve-racking part of the whole adventure! I met my qualifying standard in December 2011 in Baton Rouge. My friend and fellow runner Misty Thompson was likewise wanting to run in Boston, and we hoped we could make the trip together. So, in March, we ran together in the Andrew Jackson Marathon in Jackson, Tennessee, which was Misty’s qualifying race.

Over the summer, I worried I didn’t have a comfortable time cushion. So, the following fall, I ran our local marathon in Tupelo, Mississippi. There I improved my time, and Tupelo ended up being my qualifying race. Then registration was our next step.

I soon started to receive emails and helpful information from Kenneth Williams, the well known “Koach” from Corinth, Mississippi. I knew he was a tremendous help then, but I had no clue what kind of help he would later become!

It took me from the September registration until April to make all of the planning arrangements. Especially important was setting things up for my parents, as they would be the caregivers for our four children. I don’t know what I would do without them!

The Friday before we left for Boston, I developed a terrible cold; so our doctor friend gave me the medicine I needed – a mild dose just for Friday, which would keep any meds out of my system for race day. Thankfully, I was much better by Sunday. Unfortunately, later in the trip I learned that two of my children had the flu. Again, I could not be more thankful to my parents and close friends for how they made this experience possible. It truly takes a village!

When we arrived on Saturday evening, we checked into one of the oldest hotels in Boston, and yes, it was very OLD: the Boston Common Hotel and Conference Center. In fact, as I type it is probably being torn down and renovated into an office building. I look forward to seeing it in 2014. Ashamed to admit, I tend to be somewhat of a procrastinator, so when everyone was getting their rooms at the Sheraton, I was too late! At the time, we did not realize just what a blessing our location would later be. Once we took a peep at our cozy little room, Kurt and I walked around Boston in awe of the city. Being an architect, Kurt was anxious to see the architecture in such a place. We ate at a pizza joint as there were maybe hundreds of choices. It was tiny, and I moved from our table several times because my left hamstring was driving me crazy. My left leg had hurt on the plane ride, and did not let up until the start of the race. Thankfully it did not hurt again until after race day.

The next morning Kurt and I ran through the expo exhibit area to get my packet, and then met Jim and Misty for the Boston Duck tours. That was an interesting ride as we learned much about the city. Then we went to a Red Sox game. Kurt and Jim probably would say it was one of their favorite parts of our trip, but I have to admit it was my least favorite part. We were freezing and cramped in tiny rows of seats. I could not stretch my hamstring if I had wanted to! So, Misty and I happily left the guys to go shop the marathon exhibit. It was there I found the most awesome flip flops (gave my hamstring a little relief) called OOFOS Sandals. They felt so good that Kurt ended up with some too. He and Jim joined us after the game, and we all headed for pasta at a nice Italian restaurant. We parted ways and headed back to our rooms for a good night’s rest.

I barely fell asleep before I was up trying to eat breakfast, drink my Spark, stretch a little, and pray for a safe enjoyable race. Kurt graciously woke up in time to take me to meet Misty and the rest of the runners with Mr. Kenneth at the Boston Common. I was excited about seeing them, because I had not gotten to Boston in time for the dinner meeting on Saturday night. Well, I am not sure if I just like being late, or if I truly misunderstood the location of Burger King, which was where we were planning to meet at 6 a.m. Kurt had me out the door walking in plenty of time, but would you believe, I was LATE?! I think we were all nervous, but since the lines were forever long to get on the big yellow school buses, I had plenty of time to spare. Thankfully there was a nice man near our group who was able to talk to Kurt and get us there…several blocks later. I am sure Kurt would add right here that he too traveled about 26 miles on foot by the end of that day!

We finally loaded for the 45 minute bus ride to Hopkinton, close to where the starting line would be. I ate part of my power bar and drank the rest of my Spark as a new runner friend shared his last year experience in the extreme heat at the Boston marathon. Several times we both said how thankful we were that maybe this year would be a “normal” run! As we arrived, we all hurried off of the bus, met in a central spot, and then quickly headed for our first trip to the potty! I will add here that we went three times before the race started, and the last time, we were pushing it to the limit! I was afraid my marathon was going to begin about a half mile before the actual start.

Jane Clair and Misty hurriedly on the way to the start

A new friend, Beth Allen was an angel, as Misty and I were clueless and probably would have never made it to the start if it hadn’t been for Beth. We dropped off our bags of belonging at the buses, and then hurriedly jogged to the corrals. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to be late, so Beth and Misty were maybe a bit concerned! But, we made it; and within a few minutes of my entering the corral, the race started! I looked at the person beside me and asked, “Has it started yet??” Oh yes, we had, so I pressed start on my Garmin, and I was running!

I had no idea just how crowded the race would actually be! I was so afraid I was going to fall and actually did trip on another person, but thankfully we were both fine. After about a mile, I felt much better and really enjoyed the run until the very end of Heartbreak Hill. I guess I was just so busy enjoying all of the cheerleaders and spectators. I had my choice of a pretzel stick or a Popsicle every time I turned a corner, and the homemade signs were quite entertaining. The time just flew by faster than I ever imagined. I ran the entire race keeping an eye out for Kurt, as I expected to see him somewhere. Little did he know that after figuring exactly where he thought I might be, riding the subway that stopped 16 times before getting off, then walking one mile to get to an open spot in the crowd, I would not see him. Kurt said I was clueless that he was the only clown jumping out into the street screaming my name. Sorry Kurt! He is always my biggest fan! Well, once I hit that last two or three miles, I started to slow down a bit. Thankfully, I was still able to press on until the end!

I will never be able to describe the feeling I had when I ran across that finish line! As I was shuttled through all of the finish line aftermath, I anxiously hurried to the “S” to find Kurt in the family waiting area. I was exhausted but couldn’t wait to tell him about my day and hear about his. I had already gotten my yellow bag, stopped for a potty break and thankfully put back on my warm clothes. I was so cold, but little did I know how blessed I really was: safe, warm, and with Kurt. We went back to our room to let me change clothes, and then planned to meet Misty and Jim once she was done. As Kurt and I visited and laughed about our day, he was videoing and telling me about his 26 mile run while trying to find me in multiple spots. I can specifically remember unpacking my bag and putting something back in my purse when we heard a loud noise! Kurt said, “That sounds like a bomb, but no, I bet they are used to this type of stuff in Boston.” Immediately it happened again, and we ran to the window and he said, “I think that is a bomb!” We started to hear sirens and lots of noise, so he turned on the TV. And much to our surprise, the finish line was a disaster area.

We were in shock, and both of us grabbed our phones to try to find Misty and Jim. Finally, Kurt got through to Jim who was headed to his room, and to Misty, who was enroute. She was taken into a restaurant as the bomb had gone off right after they had planned to meet back in the room. If you remember, I mentioned our hotel actually being a blessing. Well, it was. From our hotel room, we could see the front door of the restaurant where Misty was directed during the aftermath. Before we finally knew where Misty was, Kurt had gone down into the chaos several times after the explosion to try to find her and to see exactly what was happening. The last time Kurt returned and checked on me, something dawned on him about Misty’s location, and he realized she was right in the restaurant below us. Before when he ran out, I could see the top of his head for quite a ways. But this time I followed him until he actually got to the restaurant’s door. Then he retrieved Misty and headed back to find Jim in their motel. I selfishly wanted them to come to me, but I know Misty and Jim felt as if they had been apart for an eternity, and Kurt knew they needed to be together ASAP. They went around tons of yellow tape, but somehow Kurt managed to get Misty back to Jim and then what seemed like hours later, he returned to me safe and sound.

Through the immediate hours after the bombing, one of my biggest fears was that there might be another explosion and Kurt would not make it back! I knew all I could do was pray and trust God. One of my biggest comforts was the phone call from my oldest child, Sally Grace. She had not called me since I had been gone, but for some reason, she called right after the bombing. Praying she wouldn’t sense my fear, I told her there had been a terrible accident, and she needed to let my mom, “Tootie,” know that we were okay. Thankfully it wasn’t much longer until I heard from my parents, and got to hear our other children’s voices. What a blessing!

After Misty’s safe delivery, Kurt and I had tons of time to rest, watch the news, and think about all that had happened! Our phones rang off the hook once the lines were working again. Calls came from friends, family, the newspaper, and television stations back home wanting to know if all of the runners with Mr. Kenneth were safe! At that point we were not totally certain of where everyone was, but we had heard most were OK. It wasn’t until later that evening that we heard again from Misty, and she and Jim had seen some of the group that did reassure them of everyone’s safety.

When we went out, we had to weave through all of that yellow police tape just to find a place to eat. It was like a scary movie. Guards were everywhere!!! We were so tired, afraid, and hungry! We managed to find a good hamburger and some kind of dessert, as that is usually my craving after a marathon. It was hard to eat as nothing really tasted good, and it seems like my stomach stayed in a knot for quite some time. We were able to stay a couple of days to see the town, or more accurately, the yellow tape and all of the news trucks…so sad! Each time we left our room, we were always sidetracked as we watched CNN live! We could not take our minds or eyes off of what had happened and what we were seeing. The tragedy was so hard and still is so hard to understand. The questions have continued in my mind…why and how? My emotions have gone from excitement, to fear, to sadness, to guilt, to anger. Now I think my emotions are very slowly moving back to excitement as I look forward to the next Boston Marathon. If I do have the privilege of running in 2014, I will run with a totally different mindset. I will run with more gratitude, respect, and honor to those who lost loved ones, to those injured in this year’s event, and to those who fought so hard to save many lives. Thanks to all of you! You are my heroes!

Jane Clair Shettles
Belden, Mississippi
April 15, 2013
Age – 40
Bib # 12405

Below is a transcript of one of Jane Clair’s television interviews:

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) — Cameras may have captured chaos that followed two explosions along the Boston Marathon’s finish line Monday afternoon.

But Tupelo resident Jane Clair Shettles was there, having finished her marathon some 45 minutes before the blasts.

“It has definitely changed the atmosphere here. Everybody’s scared to death,” Shettles said, speaking from a landline in her hotel room.

Shettles was in her hotel room when the explosions started.

“I got on the phone immediately trying to call my best friend. We had been following her. She had just passed the finish line not too far from the explosion,” Shettles said. “Long story short, we have found her and she is back with her husband. But for quite a good bit of time, I was scared to death.”

As the smoke cleared, emergency responders and law enforcement agencies attended to the wounded.

Back in Tupelo, Shettles’ coworkers waited in anticipation for any news.

“I immediately started calculating if I thought she was finished or not, and then I started trying to think about the others, what speed they were running,” fitness instructor Regina Beyer said. “Were they at the finish line at that time?”

Beyer works with Shettles at the North Mississippi Medical Center Wellness Center in Tupelo.

At the same time, avid runner David Branner was keeping track of his friends’ progress through tracking software the Boston Marathon uses.

It helps anybody see how individual competitors are doing.

“The first thing I did when I heard about it was look to see the people I knew, when they finished, and try to assure myself they weren’t involved,” Branner said.

At the same time, Branner described a pang of discomfort because of where the bombing took place. He’s one of a small number in northeast Mississippi who’ve completed the Boston Marathon multiple times.

“My reaction first was horror at the thought of something like that happening at such a major event. Boston’s unique because it’s a world-class marathon, in which us normal people get a chance to run,” Branner said. “It’s really special, a special event.”

Shettles finished in 3:14:33, an impressive time, according to her friends.

However, she says that will be forever overshadowed by the chaos that followed about 45 minutes later.

“It’s so sad, because we are definitely not celebrating running a marathon in Boston right now. And it just breaks your heart to see [it]. Some people are in the hospital, some people have lost their loved ones. It’s not really the feeling you want to have when you’ve run 26 miles in Boston,” Shettles said.