The Boston Marathon finish line bombs and Texas fertilizer plant explosion has made for a very difficult national week. The news is so hard to follow, and when they don't know anything for sure they just speculate, and then when they do know something for sure it's terrible news. I'm sure we're all weary of the coverage, it's hard not to break into a million pieces. But I want to honor the stories, I think that sharing first hand accounts of these days shape history.
My friend Emily was a runner in Monday's 2013 Boston Marathon. Her story will bring tears to your eyes.
I have always wanted to run the Boston Marathon. Every year for as long as I can remember I have gone to the Red Sox game and then out to Boylston Street and watched the end of the Marathon. It is a Boston tradition. It was my tradition. After watching last year’s runners in 85-degree weather, I told my husband that next year I would run.
I trained for 3 months in rain, snow, wind, and 20 degree weather. I missed snowboarding trips, and when I did go, instead of drinking I was running. My motivation was knowing that on April 15th I would go across one of the world’s most famous finish lines.
I trained alone most of the time, but my friend Bridgette trained with me here and there. Also my friend Joe, an elite runner, gave me advice on what I should be doing to prepare for the big day. He just kept telling me to make sure I enjoyed every second of the run. To soak up everything. By Easter weekend I was feeling ready.
For people who don’t know, Patriots Day in Boston is a HUGE day. There are 25,000+ people running the marathon, a Red Sox game and a Bruins game. The city is so alive, and packed. It is an amazing day to be from and around the city. The City shuts down for the Marathon. So I was so excited to be taking part in this long tradition.
I started the race full of jitters! What was I about to do?! I had to talk to Joe, who gets to start with the all the professional runners the night before. He told me again just to soak it all up. He said that I was going to do great and that his wife would be tracking me. Most importantly I should enjoy the day. So that was my plan.
I started the race at 10:40am, over 1 hour after the first runners went over the starting line. The first 4 miles are packed with fans in Hopkinton. It’s awesome. My jitters went away and I started to feel excited. Then about mile 5-8 I started to get into my stride.
I am not fast. I run about a 9:40-10+ minute mile. My goal was to finish under 5 hours. After mile 15 I was still feeling amazing. I was on a runners high for sure. The crowd was INSANE! The best part about the marathon is the crowd. When I got to mile 16 I finally saw my first family member: my Aunt and Uncle!! I was sooo excited. I stopped to see them, then they pushed me forward to keep my pace. I didn’t get much further when I saw some other friends, who had made me a sign. It was just what I needed. I couldn’t believe I was making my pace and was feeling so amazing. Then I got to the start of what they call the Newton Hills.
”Heartbreak Hill” is about mile 16-ish… I saw my co-worker. I was so happy to see her. She gave me some oranges and told me GET GOING!!! The crowd was just as LOUD at that point too. In the middle of the hills, I saw more friends. Then, at almost the very top of Heartbreak Hill, I saw my dear friend Doug.
Doug is the reason I was able to run the marathon in the first place. He got me my invitation. I stayed with him for a few minutes knowing that when I got to the top of the hill it was all gravy at that point. The people I was running with for the last 15 or so miles said goodbye. I didn’t know them but after 15 or so miles we had pushed each other.
Now I am at mile 20+ (I stopped looking at the mileage at that point I just new I was at the top of Heartbreak Hill) I could not believe it! I was still so shocked at how great I was feeling.
Boston College is at the top of Heartbreak Hill. It is where you know you are so close to the end. Not to mention you are among thousands of college kids who cheer you on so loud it’s beyond words. I taped my name on my shirt, so hearing “GO EMILY COME ON EMILY” at that point is flipping insane.
Apparently around this point is when the first bomb went off. I knew nothing, the crowd of college kids knew nothing. All the runners around me knew nothing.
Then around mile 24 (I don’t know the exact miles at this point I just know I am getting closer) I saw my Mom, Nemo my nephew, my brother Ethan, and my mother-in-law Betty. I could tell that something had happened because the fans where all on their phone. People were crying. But nobody was stopping us from running. My family did not know what happened because they were not near a TV . They were waiting for me to run by. So after hugs and kisses I kept going.
It was starting to get weird at that point. Some lady that I had been running with screamed, “There were explosions at the finish line but we are getting re-routed to another finish line!” So we kept running. I was feeling good physically, but not sure what I was supposed to be doing. But all I knew was at this point I was going to finish this thing.
Then I saw my dad at mile 24 1/2ish. He was all alone at a usually packed part of the race. He gave me a huge kiss. I started crying. I told him I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM GOING TO FINISH AND UNDER 5 hours!! He didn’t know that 2 bombs had gone off. He said keep going I will see you at the end. We had no idea of the severity of what had happened at the finish line.
At mile 25 I finally saw my husband Ethan, my sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and four of my dear friends who had come up to go to the Sox game and then come out to see me finish.
The plan from the start was for them to meet me at mile 25, after the game. We knew, after many years of enjoying this day, that they would not be able to actually see me cross the finish line. So they would see me run by then hop on the train to meet at the family meeting center.
When I approached them, my husband said, “I am going to run the last mile with you.” I still didn’t really know what was happening at that point, I just thought there was a new finish line. I said, “Babe I am running!!!” But he told me he couldn’t leave me out of his sight. He knew what had happened but still nobody was stopping all the runners. So he hopped over a barricade, grabbed my hand and we kept going. We got ½ mile down the road, just past Kenmore Square.
Still we were not being told to stop running. But it was pure chaos. People were crying, runners including myself were so confused. We couldn’t get any further, yet we couldn’t get back to Kenmore Square. People were yelling that there were more bombs, we need to turn back, but the police were telling us we couldn’t go back. It was so confusing. No one officially told me to stop, but they didn’t need to. There was nowhere to go, just runners crying and walking in circles.
I was so cold from sweat, and having just run 25.8 miles I was physically exhausted. Most of the runners around me were the runners I had been running with for the last 10 or so miles, and we just wanted to finish. I didn’t understand that it was bigger than I could have ever imagined.
Runners knew that their family members were waiting for them at the finish line. All we knew at this point was that there were 2 explosions, and possibly more. Most of the runners didn’t have phones. There was one medical tent, and the amazing people were giving us plastic bags to stay warm, trying to calm us down. Complete strangers were handing out water, blankets, letting people use their cell phones. But nothing was going through except for text messages.
It was so scary. It was so chaotic.
After about an hour of trying to figure out what we should do, we decided to head back up to Fenway Park to get away from the city. Cell phones were still not working, but we saw a few people finally find their loved ones. It was so emotional.
When we finally got through on the phone to let people know I was okay, I lost it. I just couldn’t stop crying. I was with that group that was running across Boylston when the explosion went off. Thank God I took my friend Joe’s advice and soaked up the whole race.
Less than 1 mile. That’s how far out I was from finishing. Thank God my husband was with me at the last mile. I keep replaying the image in my head of the last few miles. What if I didn’t stop to say hi? What if Ethan was at the finish line waiting for me? What if …? Well it’s not a What If anymore. I am so thankful I am ok. I am so horrified at the poor people who lost limbs, and my heart aches for the three people killed.
When I got home to Cape Cod on Tuesday, I couldn’t really walk. I was full of emotion. Feeling unfinished. I know I ran my best and I would have finished. I wasn’t really sure what to do with myself.
Then my friend Joe came to the house. He finished the race in 2 hours and 38 minutes. He gave me his medal. It was overwhelming. I was speechless. We both starting crying. From the day I told him I was going to run he never doubted that I wouldn’t finish. It is an act of kindness that I can’t even put into words.
I will never forget that day. It is supposed to be a day of self-accomplishment, a day of celebration. We are TITLE TOWN FOR A REASON.So, with all the devastation, I have my title.