Boston. As a person with a blog who ran the Boston Marathon on Monday, I feel compelled to post something here. As a runner who worked my butt off to qualify for the Boston Marathon and then waited (im)patiently for my chance to run it even with less-than-ideal training, I feel compelled to write down my thoughts just so that I can hopefully sort through them myself. Others have written so much more eloquently on the topic of Monday’s attack and what it meant for the running community and Boston, but I’ll do my best. This isn’t the entry I ever thought I’d be writing about my first Boston Marathon.

I can’t understand why anyone would choose to attack the finish line of a race that is such a beautiful experience for everyone there, runners and spectators alike. All the veterans of the race that I talked to beforehand urged me, “Just try to enjoy your first Boston, you can never get it back. Don’t focus on the time on your watch. It’s simply the best race experience.” And I have to agree – I will never forget high-fiving little kids early in the race, then high-fiving drunk college kids a little further along. I’ll never forget the little girl who walked up to me with a plate of fresh fruit while I stretched my cramping fatigued legs on the side of the road and quietly said, “Excuse me ma’am, would you like to be left alone or would you like some fruit?” And she apparently wasn’t horrified when I struggled and took forever to pick up three grapes because my fingers had stopped functioning. These are the memories I want to hold onto, and I’m so angry that someone had the gall to attack that spirit, those spectators who make the Boston Marathon what it is, to rob so many of their health and lives, and to try to take away what is so essential to the experience. To whoever attacked the race, I want to say, “You didn’t ruin it for me. I will grieve and I will never understand, but I refuse to let you take this away from me.” I don’t have a qualifying time for next year, and it’s not in the cards for me to get one by the fall registration date, but for so many who have (re)qualified, this attack has reinvigorated their commitment to run it next year, and I sincerely hope that happens. And I will be there to cheer them on.

While a sick and evil person (or persons) attacked the race on Monday, causing everyone to question why anyone would do that, so many more rushed to help and in so many forms. I had just crossed the finish line when I heard the first blast and turned around to see smoke rising from the sidewalk. The instant I heard it, I expected it was a gunshot, but when I saw the smoke, I immediately guessed it was a bomb and then told myself to stop being so dramatic, I’m sure the building had some sort of structural issue or a pipe exploded or something. But I hurried in the opposite direction, grabbing my medal and water from volunteers who continued to hold their ground, hurried and scared as they may have been. The second explosion went off, and I knew it was an attack and feared there could be more. I got my checked bag with my phone, saw a text from Eric, “You did it!”, to which I responded with half-frozen fingers, “Yeah. Two bombs went off went I crossed the line.” I knew my mom was probably close behind me also running the race, but for some reason I wasn’t scared for her safety, I just didn’t know how she would ever get to her phone in her checked bag to find me. I immediately tried to call my dad, couldn’t get through, and started texting him – he hadn’t seen anything on the news yet but quickly saw it.

In the minutes and hours that followed, I received texts, voicemails, and emails from so many people checking to see if I was alright. I can’t express how touched I am by everyone who reached out either to me or to some of my friends to hear if I was ok. I tried to respond to them all, but the message was the same, “yes I’m ok but I don’t know how to find my mom.” My Twitter feed on my phone confirmed my assumption that it was an attack rather than structural problems, but Twitter stopped loading so I couldn’t get anymore information through that source. I posted on facebook that I was ok but if anyone knows what they are doing with runners still on the course, please let me know so I can find my mom. People I don’t even talk to very often posted either with information or simply expressing concern. I hope whoever committed this attack sees not only the devastation I assume they hoped to cause but also the amazing triumph and support coming from all directions to help everyone affected. The Google doc of places to stay, the Google People Finder, runners reportedly continuing after their race to go donate blood. People in the lobby of our hotel offered to let my mom and me stay in their room if we couldn’t get out of the city. We’ve all seen the videos and photos of first responders and other spectators rushing in to help. I saw men in civilian clothes running up to Copley Square with their military IDs saying they’d be activated to come help.

When I got back to work yesterday, everyone asked me about the attack, I had to retell my story on every conference call. I felt guilty whenever someone would say, “I’m so sorry you had to go through that” because I wasn’t injured, I wasn’t close enough to the explosions to see anyone get hurt, I was able to find my mom and make my flight home, and no one I know personally was hurt. But now I think I’m starting to own my experience a little better. Yes I’m safe physically, but these bombs attacked an event that is one of the most sacred things to me. Some may say it’s “just” running, but it’s not and I will debate with you forever about it. So, today I certainly still feel guilty that I am alive and physically ok, but I am also starting to understand that maybe it’s ok for me to still be mentally and emotionally injured, to be angry that someone tried to ruin this day for me and thousands of other runners, spectators, and loved ones watching from afar.

Last night I got home late from work, I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and physically, and I was wearing my new Boston Marathon 2013 jacket. I went to check my mailbox, and an older man was also checking his mail with his golden retriever. The dog immediately came up to me for some pets, and I willingly scratched her ears and told the man not to worry when he apologized that she was always looking for attention. Honestly I wish I could’ve just sat there petting and snuggling that dog for hours. The man asked what my jacket said, and I responded quietly, “Boston Marathon. I ran yesterday.” He said, “I thought so. I’ve seen that jacket all over the news.” And went on to say how glad he and the community was that I was safe, how sorry he was the attack happened. He seemed so earnest and somber that I don’t doubt he felt the weight of Monday’s news and saw it in my eyes especially as my eyes welled up with tears. He introduced himself and just kept repeating how thankful he was that I was safe. I realize now that this jacket may continue to bring out that reaction, at least for a little while, and I already wasn’t sure how often I’d wear it even before the attack so now I’m just more confused about it.

So now I’m just waiting with everyone else to hear any more news of who did this. There are many great quotations circling the internet that are pertinent to this attack and the spirit of the marathon, but the one I’ve chosen to focus on is from Mr. Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Running can be a very solitary endeavor with countless miles spent alone on trails and roads, but on days like Monday, we are reminded that we aren’t alone and there will always be helpers, whether they’re bringing us a few grapes at mile 18 or rushing our wounded spectators to the hospital.

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3 Responses to Boston

  1. This is amazingly poignant, Allison. One of the best blog posts I have ever read.

  2. Caroline says:

    This was beautiful, Allison…thanks for sharing.

  3. mdessauer says:

    very well said. thank you.

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