#863 at the Start, # 865 at the End

The first time I ran Boston was back in 2013, and I was 28 at the time. I had a qualifying time of 2:46:46 when I ran the Kona Marathon on June 24, 2012. I then ran a marathon on October 7th in Findlay, Ohio, called Red, White, and Blue 26.2, which I also won with a new best time of 2:45:31. I used that improved time to qualify for Boston. My goals are usually to not only improve my times, but also run a marathon under three hours in all 50 States plus the District of Columbia. Massachusetts became State #8 for me on my marathon journey.

I was a bit nervous as we were getting ready to start, but I told myself, “Stay calm, take one mile at a time, and to use your head.” As soon as the gun went off and I crossed the starting line, I told myself the same exact quote over and over again so my nerves won’t act up. After crossing the first few miles, I felt pretty good and kept my rhythm going. I even told myself to be patient; this wasn’t a sprint, this was a marathon.

At the halfway point I was sub 1:20, which was pretty good. The second half had the hills, so I knew I had to play it smart. Many of the other runners were picking up speed and passing me, but I didn’t let that bother me, especially when it came to those hills, even Heartbreak Hill. As we approached the hills, I told myself to take it easy because there were more hills ahead. Some of the other runners passed me as they were sprinting up the hills, and as a result, I see them further ahead slowing down or even walking. I knew I made the right choice as I passed them, and I continued on and approached Heartbreak Hill with no problem.

After getting over all the hills at Mile 20, I had about a 10K to go left in the race. I asked myself, do I make a move, and my brain told me not yet. My legs began feeling tired the next three miles and my mile splits were slowing down a bit. By the time I hit mile 23, I told myself I only have a 5K left, and that is when my brain and I agreed to make a move and pick up the speed. Even though the legs were about ready to give out on me, the cheers from the crowds gave me motivation to run harder and stronger in the last three miles. By the time I reached the final turn and saw the finish line, I started to sprint and finish as fast as I could. I finished with a time of 2:44:21, which is a new PR for me, and I found out I was ranked 448th overall.

After finishing, I met up with my folks and we went back to the Sheraton Hotel, about a half mile away from where we were staying. Afterwards, my folks went to the Prudential Mall to look around as I stayed in the hotel room to get an ice bath and freshen up. About 30-45 minutes later, I heard the door open and was surprised to hear them back early. A minute later, I heard the television being turned on, and that’s when I heard what happened down near the finish line.

I asked my folks what was happening and they told me there were explosions down near the finish line. At first I thought this was some sort of a joke, but it wasn’t. As soon as I finished freshening up, I immediately went straight to the television to see this, and I was in complete shock. I then went straight to my phone and tried to call family and friends back in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but the phone lines were down in Boston.

I had texts/voicemails from friends, some crying, asking if I was okay. Luckily, I was able to get service and started calling and texting people back as quickly as I could. Luckily, my sister called my folks and we told her we were okay and safe. I immediately told her to tell everyone we are okay by calling people, texting, and posting something on Facebook to report we are okay. After talking with her, my phone was already blowing up with text messages. I even had phone calls from different television and radio stations back in Indiana, asking me what happened. My folks let me have time for myself to take these calls.

After a few calls, I saw the aftermath on television being replayed over and over again. I then heard the first victim was an 8-year old boy. At that point I totally lost it. I cried for several minutes, thinking to myself this could have been me or anyone in my family. I started to think of my niece, who was also eight, and my nephew who was 10 at the time. I saw myself in the mirror crying and my sadness switched to anger. My reflection showed that anger and I quietly started letting my anger out by punching a few pillows and even the bed, until I got tired. I prayed to God asking Him why this is happening.

After I cooled off and regained composure, I continued to take more phone call interviews, and was able to text/call a couple of my friends who also ran it to make sure they were okay, which they were, Thank you God. As I finished up with all the interviews, my folks asked if I want to go for a walk around the mall with them. I agreed, I needed it. I didn’t wear my medal throughout our time in Boston, because even though I finished and earned it, there were about 7,500 other people who weren’t able to finish due to what happened.

On our last day in Boston, I was anxious to leave and go back home. As my folks and I packed up and headed straight to the airport, I kept the medal in my new Boston Marathon jacket. When we arrived at the airport and waited for our flight, I bought the Boston Globe and read all the articles about what happened that Monday, as well as the results on how many finished. By the time we boarded our plane and took off , I then took out my medal and put it around my neck. To me, after hearing what happened, it didn’t seem right to wear it until we were out of Boston. I wanted to be respectful of all the victims, which is why I did that.

The biggest question for so many was “will I run it again?” After a few months of thinking it over, I knew I had to because I knew it will become even bigger and better in 2014. My folks, a friend of ours, and I went this year, we even got the same hotel. This year’s Boston was a bit more nerve-racking for me, because for so many, there were always those “what if” questions. Many were concerned if something like that was going to happen again, plus there was tight security throughout the marathon, expo, and throughout the entire city.

I was more nervous this year than last year because there were a lot more runners, especially many fast elites, and I tried to calm myself down. Luckily, a few of my running buddies were in the same corral as me so that relieved some tension. I told myself to repeat what I did last year, but it was more challenging this year. The other runners and I were going at a faster pace, a pace I usually will do in a 5K, or 10K.

After reaching the 5K point, I quickly tried to get back in pace mode because I didn’t want to pay as we reach the halfway point and/or the second half. I had another sub 1:20 pace at the half, so I was right on target. The second half was tougher this year for me; not just because of the sun being out and getting warmer, but I knew I took off fast in the beginning. Therefore, I told myself to forget a PR, run your race, and finish Boston Strong, because this race is for all the people. I did get sunburnt and was a bit dehydrated, but the cheering of the crowds again helped me pull through to finish hard. Even though my legs and body were tired, I told myself over and over to finish “Boston Strong.” I repeated that over in my head, one mile at a time. When I reached the last turn to head to the finish line, I tried my best to pick up the speed as much as my legs and body would allow as they were ready to give out on me. I finished with a time of 2:48:55 and finished 865th overall, almost matching my bib number. In addition, Boston 2014 was my 29th marathon overall, and I was 29 years old when I ran it.

Photo Op with Bill Rodgers and the BOSTONlog.com staff

Boston 2014 may have not been my best marathon overall, but it was definitely one I will never forget. No matter what, whether finishing first or last, getting a PR or not, the important thing was to finish strong, which is what I plan to do for any other marathon, or any other race. Throughout the years, I have learned a lot from running. It’s not just running fast and winning, but it also knowing about how to be a true sport. It takes a true sport to know when and how to accept defeat, and also learn and grow from the mistakes we encounter. I am still continuing what I love doing, and I plan to continue my journey on reaching all 50 States and D.C. When that is accomplished, what will be my next goal? Perhaps running a marathon in all seven continents; I will have to figure that one out myself.

Grant Stieglitz
Fort Wayne, Indiana
April 21, 2014
Age – 29
Bib # 863