April 15, 2013, a date that will be forever ingrained in my memory. I will never forget that day from start to finish.
My alarm went off bright and early that morning and I was ready to run my very first marathon. My bags were packed and ready to go, and I had butterflies in my stomach. I had raised over $5,000 for the Melanoma Foundation of New England and I could not wait to run 26.2 miles in honor of my grandmother (and many others who had lost their fight). I trained my butt off all winter long and felt prepared for what was going to be the best (and longest) race of my lifetime. I grew up in the Boston area, and crazy enough, I had never once watched the Boston Marathon. All of this was going to be new to me and I could not wait to experience it!
The Boston Marathon starts in Hopkinton, a historic little town and goes 26.2 miles all the way into the city of Boston. During the ENTIRE 26.2 miles, the crowds are absolutely incredible… I had always heard about the crowds and the cheering, but I was simply blown away. The crowds helped carry me through each of the towns: Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Heartbreak Hill and then cruising down Boylston Street towards the finish. Throughout the entire race I remember thinking over and over again ‘this is amazing.’
When I turned onto Boylston Street I started to cry… I could not believe I was about to finish my first marathon. I held my hands up in the air running that last tenth of a mile, beaming with joy and excitement! 3:28:32 was my final time and I was pumped. I needed 3:35 to qualify and I knew I beat this goal time by several minutes.
After crossing the finish line, I received my medal, Mylar blanket and food, grabbed my belongings and went off to meet my husband Todd and my mom. We decided we would meet at the designated ‘family meeting area.’ I thank my lucky stars every day that we decided to meet in this very spot (and not on Boylston street). Once I laid eyes on Todd and my mom, I felt so proud and I knew they were proud of me too.
We stood there and took some photos to capture the moment, and that is when it all happened… While in the middle of taking a few pictures with me and my medal we heard a loud ‘boom’ that I can’t even describe into words. I have never experienced an earthquake, but the ground shook as if it was one. Initially we all thought it was a gas explosion or maybe a plane?… we were wrong. Fear really set in when the second explosion went off and we knew something wasn’t right. The air started to smell like sulfur, we started to hear sirens. At this location, we were a few blocks away from Boylston St. and could not see what was happening at the finish line. Everyone was trying to use their cell phones, but nothing was working.. mass confusion. Todd’s friend got through to his cell phone and told us he thought ‘bombs went off.’ From then on I think I ‘blacked out’… Maybe it was because I had just ran a marathon and was extremely tired at that point, but I honestly draw a blank when it comes to that moment searching for a taxi cab. While walking to find a cab, what I do remember is seeing ambulances literally everywhere, speeding down streets with sirens on… such an unsettling feeling. Once we got in the cab, we heard the radio mention terrorism and I just could not believe what I was hearing. Could this be happening in my city?!
We got home that night and I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t want to eat and I just wanted to be alone. I remember not crying until a few days after the marathon. I think I was in shock for a few days. I remember walking around and doing errands feeling like my head was in a cloud, feeling so out of it. After a couple days I was home alone and just started crying hysterically. All of these crazy emotions were going on through my body. I wanted to feel joy and accomplishment, but I felt so much anger, so much guilt. Why was I so lucky? Why couldn’t I have helped people who were injured? Here I was, perfectly fine, and so many people were in hospitals fighting for their lives. Then there were the roughly 5,7000 people who didn’t even get to finish. This made me feel even more guilty because I got to cross the finish line and they didn’t. I couldn’t be happy and I didn’t feel proud for a LONG time.
Today we remember the lives that were lost. We remember the heroic volunteers, first responders and random bystanders who risked their lives to help others. Please take a moment today to think of all that was lost on that day. And while so much was lost, we all stand STRONG together, one year later, stronger than ever before.
I look forward to April 21st, six days from now, when we take our race back. I love this quote from an article in Runner’s World today by Mark Remy:
Finally, when the time comes, we’ll join the stream of runners walking to the starting corrals. We’ll hear announcements, the National Anthem.
Moments before the start, we’ll look skyward, glance around, maybe close our eyes. Some of us might pray. Others may cry, or take a deep breath. We’ll hear the gun.
And then, like white blood cells rushing together to the site of an infection, we will run to Boylston Street.