It seems like Monday, April 15th was more than just a few days ago. A lot has happened and not happened since then and I can’t help but feel like everything we’ve experienced couldn’t possibly have happened in a matter of days, hours, minutes, seconds.
I’m not sure I will be writing a race recap this time around. I don’t think I could do it justice. Everything is a blur and details just aren’t there. I trained my heart out for the past few months and was so happy to cross that finish line with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart. I did it. I ran a 3:14:37, a PR of over 3 minutes.
All of that seems so silly now. It’s meaningless. And just like the ups and downs of the course, the emotional roller coaster of the past few days seems like it just won’t end.
Others didn’t get the chance to reach that finish line. Like many of you, I’m angry, hurt, confused, conflicted, sad, and lost. After I exited the finish chute and hobbled over to the gear truck to collect my bag, I turned on my phone for the first time. It was a flurry of text messages and tweets from friends who had been tracking me during the race. A wave of emotion came over me as I realized that all of the sweat I put into this training cycle was worth it. I put on my finisher’s jacket and began making my way through the family meet-up areas. Manny called me and told me they were still on their way back from Boston College where they had been spectating (near mile 21.5) and that they would get off at the Hynes stop. I’m not totally familiar with Boston but I knew where that was. I walked west and approached Boylston when Scott called my name. I turned around and we hobbled (like only marathoners can) toward each other. We congratulated each other and began talking about the race and how we felt. Scott told me that he saw Kevin and that we should walk over toward the finish line to meet up with him and see Chanthana finish.
I knew it would be tough to get there. I asked several of the volunteers standing near the barricades in the finish chute if there was an easy way to get over to the finish line. They told Scott and I to turn around (away from Boylston) and walk several blocks west before turning back north where the finish line was. So we did. But we knew that it was going to be really busy and we ended up finding an empty corner to sit and wait for my family to find me at Dartmouth and Stuart. They arrived a few minutes later. I was torn between finding a place for all of us to sit and eat and drink a celebratory beer and finding the other runners in our group who had all finished. We decided it was best to wait there and use it as a meeting spot. And we were especially looking forward to starting the celebration with a beer.
We ordered a round of drinks. And then we ordered a meal.
And this is when time starts to slow down.
I heard one boom. Others heard two. We felt it. The restaurant had open windows and we could see everything that was happening on the street. People were so confused and quiet. We all looked at each other and kept repeating, “what was that?”. For a few minutes, no one on the street moved and everyone in the restaurant peered out the windows to try to figure out what happened. A few minutes later, we saw people running away from Boylston and crying. No one looked injured. People were in shock. We told our waiter we wanted the check and we didn’t want our food. We didn’t know if we should stay in the restaurant. I looked at Twitter and the first tweet I saw was from Flotrack.
The restaurant turned on the news and most of my family walked over to see what they were saying. I stayed in my seat. I didn’t know what to do. I was worrying about the other runners that were on their way to meet up with us. I was torn between wanting to know what happened and avoiding it. I knew it was bad but I didn’t want to know how bad. Another few minutes went by and ambulances and police cars lined the street outside the restaurant. They told people to get off the street and directed them several blocks away. There must have been at leaset 15 cop cars on the street. Manny was planning on taking the train to the airport 30 minutes before. He had his bag with him and everything. He quickly decided that he would intentionally miss his flight and pay for another the next day. I’m so glad he stayed.
Our phones were crazy. We had random spurts of cell service and all of us received notifications in batches. We couldn’t keep up with responding to everyone. (Thanks to anyone that passed along the news that the group was okay. That was incredibly helpful.) Our phones were quickly dying.
Lauren and Chanthana arrived at the restaurant and we all hugged them so tightly. Everyone was safe. My friends and family were all safe and accounted for. I’m not sure what time it was when we decided that we should start walking to our hotel. We knew we wouldn’t be able to take the train and that the walk across the river to Cambridge was probably less than 2 miles. Compared to the 26.2 we had just run, 2 miles sounded easy. And compared to what could have happened just an hour or so before, we felt lucky, spared.
After everything that happened, it didn’t occur to me until Tuesday night that I could have been much closer to the finish line than I was if those volunteers hadn’t directed Scott and I to walk several blocks in the other direction first. And as badly as our legs hurt, I’m glad we were too tired to end up anywhere other than that restaurant.
My mind has been on a loop since Monday. It’s hard to think about anything other than what happened that day. I’m having a difficult time putting into words how I’m feeling. I was in shock until Tuesday night when I shed the first tear. It’s been difficult to stop the tears since then. I can’t put it into words , but Megan said it well when she wrote, “I think this is why my brain is tricking me into thinking that somehow it’s not a big deal. That it wasn’t an earth-shattering, life-changing event. It’s put up a sort of barrier that’s guarding me from fully taking it all in. But then I see photos from the scene and read about those victims who didn’t make it, and it all hits me again. Realizing that so many of my close friends could’ve easily been one of the victims triggers yet another wave of emotions that I’ve been trying to suppress all day. I just can’t believe that this insane event hit so close to home. Much, much too close.”
It’s not fair that we didn’t get to properly celebrate our accomplishments. And it’s not fair that innocent people were killed and injured on Monday.
But we will get our legs back underneath us, lace up our shoes, and run forward. Because that’s what we do.