A very nervous Helene got out of the car at Charles and Beacon at 6:45 Monday morning. It was cold. My legs were both purple taped.
I met up with much of the Samaritans team. I highly recommend the Samaritans team. The runners are good, solid people, and the non-profit staff is caring, attentive, and grateful for our commitment to fundraise and run. I bounced, nervously, in the back of the bus for an hour out to Hopkinton.
I didn't really think I'd see Copley on foot, and I was right but for the wrong reason. No one could have expected that, except now we all will every time a number of us gather in one place.
I ran until I ran out of course. If I had been in an earlier start wave, I would have finished and I might well have been blown to bits. So many ifs, so many in my circles have stories involving a thin veneer of "what ifs" that would have put us in imminent danger, so innocently choosing a bathroom break over acceleration, or factors out of our control like a later assigned start.
Before I get to the end, much has been written about the first 26 miles of this course. I dreamed of being able to run Boston, then I was pretty certain I wouldn't be able to, and then I did. The whiplash from being stopped at mile 25.2 being told there were explosions at the finish after running, nay being floated through the course by angels, just like everyone said, still hurts.
I had the running day of my life. Yeah, my quads both blew (Boston does that), and yeah, my balky IT was sore afterwards, but nothing, really, nothing impeded my progress on the course. I still got it (fist pump). No permanent damage. I was truly guarded by angels. Lifted by Shaira. Out of my mind happy to be running, finally. My IT did not snap and roll up like a windowshade. My glutes stayed quiet, my Achilleses stayed attached. When I was able to run these past few weeks, my neck had been seizing up, tense from keeping my gait balanced on a balky knee. There was no way, realistically, I should have been able to pull off 26 of those miles. My calves had started to twitch and cramp, but only after I had gotten far enough into town (yes - into Kenmore Square!) that I knew I would finish. I am sore the day after, but so thankful for even that.
The weather was perfect. The spectators are the greatest on the planet. The Biker Bar, the Wellesley Scream Tunnel, BC screaming, and every town along the way full of really cheerful faces - probably glad they weren't running themselves, no?
I kissed boys. Girls. High-fived kids and grownups. I saw the Hoyts. I saw soldiers. Blind and disabled runners being guided. (Hm...can I fundraise and guide next year?) I saw both Juli and John, dwarves running Boston for the first time. I saw Angry Birds. Hamburgers. Wonder Woman. I learned I need to spell my name phonetically next year. I was in tears crossing into Wellesley. Newton. Yikes- I'm going to make it!
And then I wasn't. I would have run across the finish line somewhere around a 4:35 (without proper training are you kidding me? Thank you CoonDogg Fitness!) Instead, I walked off the course and a couple more miles to the Samaritans office, then another mile or so to the T, on my feet from 6:45am through 6:45 pm. And so thankful for that. Sore, yes, but moving.
I was probably at mile 22 when It Happened. I don't remember hearing anything, but as I came over into Kenmore with the Citgo sign drawing closer and Fenway Park on my right I realized I was hearing way more sirens, and helicopters, than I would have expected at a marathon. Sure, someone might go down and need an ambulance, but just one. As I drew to a stop at 25.2 told the course was closed, and as it slowly dawned on me that something significant, and sinister, had happened, I began to shake. To change speeds, to stop running, to go from one of the greatest of days to yet another Marathon Monday that I would prefer not to look in the eyes, the trauma is still sinking in. I know many people who were in the midst, who have seen worse, and were able to help, or are going through worse.
I borrowed a cell phone to text Em and start getting the word out that I was fine, then nearly burst into tears as Garrett and Ron from Samaritans materialized at my shoulder and walked me back to the office. To the person whose left-behind jacket I sweated up - shivery from the physical exertion and overwhelmed by the horror unfolding a few blocks to the east - sorry. If it's any consolation, I didn't really get warm.
Back at the office, I hopped on social media (after Samaritans had already started) to let my world know I was ok - and I am still overwhelmed by the concern - and the kindness - we have been shown.
This is not the ending I imagined - either I'd finish or I wouldn't, but I thought I wouldn't finish because my own body would betray me. Not some stranger with malicious intent.
I am so sorry for the losses innocent people, perhaps having the greatest running day of their lives, have had put upon them (This guy wrote the most eloquent paeon to Boston. Instead of copying, I'll just link. What he said.)
Although I won't get a finisher's time for Boston, I will not asterisk this one. I am a Boston Finisher. Got the medal - thought it wasn't important but it has taken on quite the symbolic weight. I am a runner, a marathoner, a Boston marathoner. I have run up - and down - Heartbreak. I have not right on hereford and left on boylstoned, but in time I'll correct that. I nailed everything else. Nailed it.
I remain grateful for the opportunity to run and do something good for Samaritans, I am humbled by the support my community has shown.
To continued recovery, to pray and to fight, and to run. Thank you for running with me this spring!