My Journey started on a very good day, as I was blessed to qualify in my very first marathon, September 2012, at Presque Isle, Lake Erie, PA, running a 3:52:00, three minutes under my BQ time of 3:55.
At age 60, I was the oldest runner from Shelby County to run the 2013 Boston Marathon. Jan Jensen, a fellow runner in the Gazelles & Geezers and Germantown Thoroughbred groups, and a Boston Marathon veteran, convinced me I should try a full marathon, based on good runs I ran at the St Jude’s 1/2, Gulf Coast 1/2 Ironman, and Navy Nautical 10 miler. Jan ran a PR at Presque Isle and also qualified for Boston.
In January, I tore a calf muscle, but Dr. Laura Linderman and Therapist Joel Lyons got me back up to 18 miles two weeks before Boston.
Marathon morning is exciting and the logistics of getting to the bus with your bag in hand are a challenge for a first timer. Athletes’ Village is busy; I hardly got off my feet though before I began the three quarter mile walk to the start. On the way, you shed clothing and my black Memphis Runners Track Club hoodie is now in a Boston charity. Jan and I both started at 10:40 a.m. in Wave 3, Corral #2, and we ran together the first two miles in a large crowd. There is no maneuvering and you are packed in very tightly with fellow runners. Boston is a hilly course, and my quad muscles really tightened up forcing me to walk several times. The spectators lined the entire route, were incredibly vocal and supportive, and made you feel special, like an elite runner.
A couple of minutes after passing the one mile to go line, a guy next to me turned and asked, “Did you hear that?” I said “what?” and he said “an explosion.” There was a lot of crowd cheering, I did not hear it, and replied “no.” We both continued running. I was looking at the underpass and was concerned because my muscles were tight. I decided it did not look as steep in person as the Expo video showed it. I looked up a short while later, did not see anyone running the upgrade, and, maybe due to the lack of oxygen, I was thinking how strange. The sight was surreal as runners, about 50-75, were stopped, (I guess by the Boston Police initially) and milling around the downward slope of the underpass, and I saw a race official coming down the upgrade in a golf cart. At first I thought someone had a heart attack or some serious injury/accident. The official then shouted that there was an “incident” at the finish line and that “they had to hold us here.”.
Rumors started. About five minutes later, a young man behind me said his brother at the finish line sent a text stating two bombs, dead people, serious injuries, and chaos at the finish line. I said “Oh My God,” as my girlfriend, Ruth Johnson, was waiting for me at the finish line. He said his phone service was down. I asked him to send a short text to Ruth and he quickly sent it successfully. This reassured me, as she would know that I was OK. Due to my previous career in law enforcement, I knew my race was over and that the finish line was now a crime scene. If I could have been issued a badge and gun, I would have worked for free – although very slowly, as rigor mortis was setting in my muscles. I squatted several times but could not sit down. I was only wearing a white singlet, no hat, and had doused my head with water at mile 24, so I got very cold, like everyone else. Periodically, I asked the young man if Ruth replied but he never got a response from her, although he got responses and messages from other people. I was concerned about her, and trying to ignore several selfish and distasteful comments from other runners who were in the race moment. Hopefully, they now realize how absurd, selfish, and very insensitive their comments were at the time. I was further dismayed by the line of ambulances and distraught spectators coming at us, and we parted lanes in the runners, so the police could get to the finish using the course.
After about two hours, they finally released us. I walked to the bus, got my cellphone, and Ruth answered. She had run the BAA 5K the day before, and was waiting for me at the finish line. She was only 50 yards from the second bomb and witnessed the horrible sights, sounds, and chaos, but was not hurt. Jan was also stopped like me and was alright. Needless to say, that night we did not leave our hotel, and any post-race parties were canceled.
Some people say it is luck or fate that my quads tied up or that Ruth was not closer to the bombs. During the run, I was upset that I was slowed down by my tight muscles. I told many friends who called to see if we were alright that Ruth and I each had a Guardian Angel on our shoulder. A friend of mine said “God’s timing is the best timing”, and that it was God’s Grace leading us that day. I believe this and in my faith.
The BAA race officials did a great job handling the crowd and making solid decisions during the crisis as they were also involved personally with both runners and volunteers. My hat is off to Law Enforcement and Medical First Responders for doing their duty admirably. BAA will allow runners like Jan and me who were stopped short of the finish line to return next year. Incredibly, some people disagree with BAA’s policy. Most of them did not endure our experiences. BAA has recently allowed deferments for a volcano and a heat wave. In view of this terrorist attack, BAA is very justified to let us cross the finish line with all the accolades of the Boston Marathon, and to send a message to terrorists that they will not deny us. We are going back. It sure meant a lot to me that BAA sent us our finisher medals, and officially recognized us in the results. My time of 4:18:05 was based upon my 40K split and pace. I was proud to represent MRTC in 2013, and will hopefully be in better condition next year.
I have unfinished business at the 2014 Boston Marathon.
For more personal accounts of the 2013 Boston marathon, click here.
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