“Though in a crowd of stunned runners and spectators, I felt alone”

After months of training, my wife and I had arrived at the marathon event of the year, the 2013 Boston Marathon. We started together in Wave 3, Corral 6, running for an American Medical Athletic Association charity. In four hours our day would drastically change.

A knee injury forced me to slow my pace and allowed me to just enjoy the scenery, the cool weather and cheering fans along the legendary Hopkinton to Boston course. Little did I know, had I slowed down another ten minutes, I would have been directly in front of the explosions.

I had just received my finisher’s medal when I heard and felt the first blast.

No one knew what was happening. Some thought the explosions were planned events, such as cannons being fired to celebrate Patriots’ Day. Several minutes later, the fear in the back of my mind was confirmed when the ambulances began pouring in. Not wanting any lasting memory of the event I was witnessing, I resisted taking any photographs.

My wife’s pace would not have placed her near the finish line at the time of either explosion but I feared there might be more bombs out there along the course yet to explode. I was wishing we had just stayed together now. Though in a crowd of stunned runners and spectators, I felt alone. I could not find my friends. I was being ordered to move away from the family meeting area. My phone was searching for service. I wanted to let my worried family know I was OK but I could not.

Praying for the safety of my wife and others, I walked back to the hotel. Having entered the hotel I was not allowed back out to find my wife and friends. An armed guard was in the hotel lobby ordering us to go to our rooms. No exceptions. About an hour later, I finally received the much anticipated text that my wife was safe. Upon arriving at the hotel, she was greeted by a physician friend of ours who had worked in the medical tent near the bombs. He graphically described his distressing experience of triaging and stabilizing the injured. Until then, we had no idea of the extent of the injuries.

This was a traumatic experience for me, even though I was not injured, nor did I directly assist those who were injured. This event affected my wife and me for many days in ways I cannot explain. Our initial thoughts were to never return to run the Boston Marathon, but it did not take long for us to change our minds. Now we want to return for the 2014 Boston Marathon more than ever.

The terrorists picked the wrong group of people, the wrong event, and the wrong nation to attack! I’ve seen firsthand a uniting of runners, a city, and a nation in their efforts to assist the injured and capture those who committed this act of terror.

James C. Johnson Jr.
Saltillo, Mississippi
April 15, 2013
Age – 45
Bib # 23841


This article was first published in CardioSource WorldNews, June ’13

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