One year ago, I changed.
At 2:53 my iPhone rang and I was expecting to hear “I’ll meet you at Beacon St. and run the last mile or so with you!“. That had been the plan. As with every race I run, there were lots of plans.
Instead, I heard “You need to get off the course now. A bomb exploded at the finish. We think two. I’m so sorry, I really am babe, but I need you off the course NOW- I’m coming to find you“. The screaming in the background made it clear he wasn’t kidding. They weren’t the normal screams of marathon crowds, riddled with excitement and awe at the competitive spirit in people able to bring them 26.2 miles on foot. These were the screams of everyday people who just witnessed something that no one should ever have to see.
Four hours later, he and my mom found me at Boston College. Those four hours were some of the worst of my life, and they were so much better than so many others that day. Despite a few hours of uncertainty when cell phones were turned off and twitter feeds became an actual news source; my two spectators were ok. Jim ran up the stairs of the church at Boston College when he saw me, picked me up and carried me down to see my mom. We waited another 2 hours for my uncle to get into the city and pick us up, and at 9:30 that night we were home. There were no celebrations as we had planned, no recapping how great certain miles were and how challenged I felt at others. There was only sheer gratitude that we were all alive and physically unharmed. And a margarita. We really needed a margarita.
The week that followed was the most emotionally draining of my life. Floods of phone calls from friends and family checking in to see how I was and offer their thoughts on the matter. The city that Tuesday was the strangest I’d ever seen it. I drove in to the administrative offices of Boston Children’s Hospital to get my gear bag that had been left with the team. What normally is a wave to a security guard after identifying yourself had become 3 checkpoints requiring photo ID’s and radio approval from a mysterious man with a list on the other end. Once I got into the offices, the red eyes and sheer exhaustion of everyone around me made me realize I wasn’t the only one who didn’t sleep the night before. Stacy, our team coordinator, had not been home. We talked for a while and we both agreed on one thing- we’d feel better when whoever had done this was caught.
The next two days passed in a blur of exhaustion (physical and mental) and worry that we’d never really know who had done what they did or why. Thursday night during one of our vain attempts at sleep, Jim and I woke up around 2am to the TV we had been keeping on while we slept. The manhunt was on, and we couldn’t turn away. We said, “Ok, he’s cornered, this can’t go on much longer”. But it did. 15 more hours. 15, long, worrisome hours.
A year later, I don’t know if I feel much closure since he has been captured. I don’t feel better knowing there are new security measures in place, and I don’t feel better that there is a bigger field this year. I don’t feel better because we shouldn’t have had to need it in the first place.
My Boston experience will never be untarnished, will never be pure. I’m running Monday, but it feels like a consolation prize. “Sorry you had to go through that, run 26.2 miles to try and forget it”. I am excited to see the resiliency, but nervous to see it joined with a much more visible, threatening police presence. The daffodils lining the street will undoubtedly be beautiful, but will be a constant reminder of horror so many faced miles up the road.
The past 12 months have been spent thinking of what it will be like to run on Monday. To go back, and to see how I’d handle it. My goal is to run this race independently from last years, reminding myself to claim the experience I wanted so desperately since 2011 when I applied to run. I will run, walk, cry and laugh for those who can no longer. For myself and for the years and miles ahead of me, trying to forget about the ones behind.
All I know for sure is 2014 is the year I close the book on Boston. I can’t say how fast or slow, or how emotional. All I can say is on Monday, I will run.