I became delusional around mile 20, barely finished, and ended up in the medical tent

I finished the Boston Marathon, I ended up in the medical tent, bombs went off, people were hurt/killed and nothing has been the same since.

It’s been difficult to shake the images, memories, and sad feelings from my mind. The past week has felt a haze, it feels like my mind is stuck in quicksand.

The actual race has been the last thing on my mind since then.

Tough to stop thinking about the poor innocent folks who suffered as a result of these bombing suspects.

This marathon and aftermath was NOT about me, so I feel weird talking about it, but I’d at least like to share part of the experience from my perspective.

I don’t know what details to share. I don’t know what to say, so I’m just going to go with this and see what happens, something’s got to be better than just silence.

Two weeks before I ran Boston. I wrote my new favorite mantra on my hand.

The Boston Marathon is about the people of Boston. I’ve never high-fived so many people or heard such a continuous roaring of spectators. The people were so energizing and legit magical.

Cruising along,
loving the spectators of Boston

Somewhere along the back half of the course (maybe around mile 21?), I started to get goosebumps on my arms, I felt weird, and I knew something wasn’t quite right. By the time I got to mile 23 or 24(?), I couldn’t see clearly (couldn’t read my watch, had no clue what my pace, time, etc. was), my hands and face were numb, I felt confused, and I felt like I was swerving. If it had been any other race, I would have dropped out, but it was the Boston Marathon, the spectators were incredible, and I was determined to reach the finish.

Unable to read my watch; shuffling like a malfunctioning robot…

When I shuffled like a malfunctioning robot across the finish line, I couldn’t stand up straight, and two volunteers helped me. We worked our way over to the medical tent where I plopped down on a stretcher and felt really weird/awful. I could barely keep my eyes open and couldn’t remember who I was supposed to meet. I had no clue how long it had taken me to run the marathon. Everyone was so incredibly helpful, the medical professionals were so kind and comforting. It turns out I had a temperature of 101.7, a lactate of 7.7 and a pH of 7.5. The MD wanted me to receive two liters of normal saline through my IV. The plan was to recheck my labs afterward.

I was on my second liter of normal saline through my IV when we suddenly heard and felt a “boom…boom.” The MD with me said “don’t worry about it, I’m sure it’s fine, just relax” and the nurse with me said “don’t worry, I think it’s a transformer, it’ll be OK.” I kept trying to get off of the cot, but they wanted everyone to stay put.

Photo from a Florida newspaper shows medical tent before the explosions

Within seconds, an announcer came over the loudspeaker and asked everyone in the tent to clear out the center aisle of the tent to make room.

Suddenly victims in wheelchairs and stretchers started getting rushed in.

The first person I remember seeing was a younger man, in his 20’s, in a wheelchair, both of his legs missing. Maybe it’s my imagination, but they parked right in front of my cot while trying to figure out where to go. Or maybe time just froze at that moment? My heart sunk.

More and more people were rushed into the tent.

The majority of the people were missing limbs, lots of blood everywhere.

Many of the victims had a similar look on their face– large, open scared eyes; pale faces; and mouths gaping open. My heart sunk even further.

It felt shockingly quiet in the tent. I didn’t hear anyone screaming out in pain. None of the medical professionals were yelling. They all flowed around the room like a well oiled machine, which is incredible, considering there were only a limited number of people with actual trauma experience.

The tent was transformed into a mass casualty triage area.

People scribbled on strips of white bedsheets with permanent markers to label the different areas (triage level 1, morgue, triage level 2, etc.) Ambulances were pulled up to the back entrance and were taking victims to nearby hospitals.

Here’s a map of where the tent was in relation to the bombings and a diagram of the inside of the tent (which is actually arranged differently from how I remember it, that orange area is where they moved me and a few of the other runners and the area across the middle area was where the level 1 people were, but maybe I’m remembering it incorrectly):

I felt like I didn’t need to be there, but my MD wanted to recheck my labs before I left, so I was moved to the far corner of the tent with a cluster of a few other runners. A little later, as more and more people funneled in (and out the back door into ambulances) and my IV finished, the MD popped over and told me I could leave and just follow up later if necessary. I signed some stuff and I was on my way.

Two very nice volunteer girls helped me walk out of the tent and I attempted to call my parents from their cell phones. None of the phones were working, but eventually one of my calls went through.

The world outside of the tent felt like a science fiction movie. Everyone had been evacuated in the area.

I just felt like I was floating in some weird reality.

My face says it all: confusion, shock, and disbelief (from cnn.com)

Next, I needed to find Tappan. In order to find him, I needed my cell phone, which was in the bag check. I slowly hobbled my way over to the buses with the bags in them and found my phone. The battery was almost dead. Tappan’s phone was also dead at this point.

I wandered over to a nearby park, because that seemed like somewhere Tappan would wait for me. I picked up a phone call from a random number, hoping it was Tappan, but it was just a reporter from Richmond and I got even more worried. Eventually Tappan sent me a text message from a stranger’s phone, telling me to meet him in the family waiting area.

I made my way over there and found him, so relieved he was OK.

Most of the T stations were not working (and honestly I was a little afraid to go underground at that point), so we decided to walk over to Cambridge so our friend Kim could come and pick us up. But then my phone died completely and we ended up walking around the city for at least 2.5 hours, trying to find a taxi back to Dic and Kim’s house in Woburn, about eleven miles outside of the city. Eventually we called a taxi from a stranger’s phone and we made it back to their house around 6:30-ish, still in disbelief of the day’s events.

So, that’s a glimpse of what happened to me the day of the marathon.

Sorry for being so long winded, but it actually does help a little to write this all down.

I am beyond thankful Tappan and everyone else I know wasn’t near the bombs when they went off. I am grateful I wasn’t hurt.

I am hopeful it will feel less awful with time, but my heart is still so heavy for all the innocent people who were hurt because of such a senseless tragedy.

September Update:

Can’t wait to go back!

I’ve been pretty silent because I’ve been so busy with the start of my anesthesia program, but I just wanted to share how excited I am about some big news I just got today:

My entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon has been accepted!

I made their cut-off by LITERALLY ONE SECOND.

Seriously insane.

There were so many applicants this year that not everyone who qualified was able to get a spot in the race, even with a few thousand additional spots…

Today they revealed they only took people who beat their qualifying requirements by 1 minute and 38 seconds.

I beat my qualifying time by 1 minute and 39 seconds.

Let me repeat, literally ONE second.

The only marathon I ran during this past year’s qualifying time period was the 2013 Boston Marathon.

To recap, during Boston 2013, I became delusional around mile 20ish, BARELY finished (lots of weaving and looking like a crazy robot. I felt really sick and ended up in the medical tent. At the time, I had no concept of my finishing time and I was just glad to have made it out of the experience in one piece.

Little did I know my time would be so insane, letting me slip by with one second to spare.

I cannot wait to go back and be a part of something that is SO MUCH BIGGER THAN JUST A MARATHON.

Katherine Hopper
Richmond, Virginia
April 15, 2013
Age – 29
Bib # 12103

Our thanks to Katherine for allowing BOSTONlog.com to share this perspective from her blog www.neonblonderunner.com/.