Beth Allen, 39
Clarksdale, Mississippi
April 15, 2013

I thought my friends were asking me if I was OK because everyone knew I was running injured

I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2011, my second Boston in the record breaking heat of 2012, and my third Boston Marathon in 2013, the year that Boston would not be broken by terrorism.

Training for Boston 2013 was different from other years in that I truly didn’t train hard. I had a severe case of plantar fasciitis: even up until the day of the race, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to run 26.2 miles.

Most runners I know will attempt Boston with any injury because, well, because it’s Boston. The medal alone is coveted by all serious runners. I figured even if I dragged myself across the finish line, injured foot and all, I’d get the medal.

I love Boston for many reasons, but especially for the traditions that have formed each year with my fellow Boston runners from all over the south. Koach K, known in his real life as Kenneth Williams, has taken several of us under his wing and orchestrates an amazing weekend in Boston. We always have a group dinner together in which stories of past Bostons are shared and hopes of the looming current race are laced with anxiety and passion.  Boston 2013 was no different. The weekend kicked off with Koach K’s annual group dinner. There are always the runners who are seasoned Boston runners and some that are newbies. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging to one another.

Me with Koach and Bart Yasso

Another annual Boston tradition is the day before the race “shakeout run” with our friend Bart Yasso. I met Bart through Koach K the first year I ran Boston, when I had the privilege of having drinks in the bar with Bart, while Koach K showed him my splits from the day’s race. It was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe I was sitting in a Boston bar with Bart Yasso, getting feedback on my splits from the race. It was great. Since then, Bart and I have become good friends, keeping in touch and sharing coffee or shake out runs at various races. Boston 2013 we ran an awesome Sunday shakeout run with Bart, and then had coffee and conversation was about what the forecasted perfect race day weather held for us runners. Keep in mind, the year before was an unusually difficult heat wave of a race in which many runners did not finish. We were all excited about the next day’s race.

Usually the day before a race, I do a shakeout run, eat A LOT, and rest A LOT.

After just three races, for me the Boston Marathon is already steeped in tradition. Another tradition is riding the yellow school buses with Koach K as my seat partner out to the start. We stand in line with our little group and wait for the school buses to take us out to Hopkinton, where we are dropped off at the local high school football fields. We sit and wait for our call time to line up in corrals.  One thing I have noticed every year is the SWAT teams standing on top of the high school buildings, watching over the thousands of runners waiting to start the race. They have been there every year that I have run the race. I have always felt safe at this marathon.

This past year, as I lined up in my corral, I told myself, “You are here, just do the best you can with what you have.” I was worried because of my foot injury. At that moment, I received a text from home with a picture of my three children holding a sign that said “Good Luck Mom . . . Boston 2013.” And then I remembered my good friend Meb Keflezghi, and him telling me about his recent Olympic experience. During the Olympics in London, Meb began to get a cramp in his side and gave thought to dropping out of the race. He said he had no idea the other two Americans had dropped out. But then he thought about how he would explain to his three beautiful girls that he had dropped out of the race.  He said he could not give up because of his children.

After seeing the text from my kids back home, I thought of Meb and decided I was going to go as far and as hard as I could, and hope for the best. I replied to the text and told my kids to never ever give up and to chase their dreams, just as I do every day of my life.

It was a gorgeous day and I honestly remember feeling stronger and better with each mile. The course is notorious because of it’s downhill first half and uphill second half. It can be brutal if not respected. Fortunately, I have always respected this course and definitely don’t want to be on its bad side . . . EVER!

I ran a great race that day in Boston. I had negative splits and remember cruising through the hills and conquering Heartbreak Hill without even realizing I had run through them.  My favorite part of the race was at Mile 24. I had made plans with Bart to look for him around mile 24.  Coming into Boston, the streets begin to narrow, making it harder to race as the crowd thickens. I kept looking for Bart and then I saw him, with his hand stretched out of the crowd, screaming “GO BETH, GO.” We high fived as I ran by and I got a renewed burst of energy. As I took that right on Hereford Street and the left on Boylston Street, I realized I had run a great race with an injury.  My mind proved to be stronger than my body that day.  I crossed the finish line in 3:32:29, which is about 13 minutes faster than my age group qualifying time.

The first person I saw when I crossed the finish line was Merhawi Keflezghi, Meb’s brother. He was standing inside the finish corral under the photo bridge and congratulated me. I was shuffled by runners behind me in the crowd to keep walking to the recovery line and medal line.  It took me about 30 minutes to get through the finishing corrals and to retrieve my bag from the bus.  About 45 minutes after I finished the race, I found my husband in the family reunion area and the feeling I had was absolute elation and pure joy. I had run a good race and that was the most rewarding feeling at that moment.

Jeff and I made our way back to our hotel, which was located one block from the finish area in Copley Square. We stopped in the lobby Starbucks for a hot chocolate and coffee cake (another one of my marathon traditions). As we sat for about 20 minutes, recapping the race and my splits, we were unaware of what was happening right outside the doors of our hotel.

About an hour after I crossed the finish line, the first bomb exploded on Boylston Street. I began to receive multiple texts asking me if I was OK. I thought my friends were asking me if I was OK because everyone knew I was running injured. Then my brother called and told me about the bombs.

Around the same time, the hotel officials asked all who were hotel guests to please go to their rooms and stay there. We were officially under lock down. My first thoughts were my friends still on course. Koach K was on pace to finish around the time the bombs went off. Thankfully, he was having an off day and was behind pace and was stopped by officials about a mile from finish line. Thank God.  Then I thought about Meb and Merhawi and how they had been at the finish line when I finished. I called them and they had left the finish line fifteen minutes before the explosions.

As Jeff and I sat stunned in the hotel room, watching the action from our window overlooking Copley Square, the view was surreal. How could such a wonderful, beautiful experience in just an instant change into tragedy? I could only think of the injured victims and their families.

To this day, I still am thankful I was not a witness to the tragedy that took place on the streets of Boston. I suffered from extreme guilt for having an amazing day and a great race, and it took a while to process those feelings and be okay with them. Had I seen the tragedy firsthand, it may have been harder for me to recover.

Before I left Boston, I had already made my hotel reservations for 2014. I was determined, just as so many others are, to return to Boston in 2014 and run with all my heart for those whose lives were so deeply affected by 2013.

Recently, I received confirmation I have been accepted to Boston 2014, and I feel blessed to be able to have the opportunity to make the annual trip to the beautiful city of Boston. What motivates me as a runner is to run for those who can’t. As I train for the upcoming New York Marathon, I am inspired by the Boston victims and their families. I hold them in my heart and let their stories inspire me to be the best ME I can be.

BOSTON STRONG!

Beth Allen
Clarksdale, Mississippi
April 15, 2013
Age – 39
Bib # 17440
3:32:29