16
Apr
13

One day later: Still hard to believe

The ripple has turned into a wave. Who’d have expected the finish line of the Boston Marathon to end up as a crime scene?

When I heard the twin explosions from a couple of blocks away Monday afternoon, I knew something bad had happened. But I just went about my business.

At the time, I was feeling nauseous, having finished the race an hour earlier. I had spent about 30 minutes sitting along a curb feeling lousy, and when a runner behind me puked into a garbage can, I wondered if I would be next.

Eventually I felt the need to pee, a good sign when fighting dehydration. With the help of my dad’s arm, I was back on my feet. My wife and daughter were there too – we were at the Family Meeting Area. Thankfully, we were all together.

It was while we waited in line at a row of portable toilets when the blasts occurred. Not long after we all did our business, another sound pierced the air: sirens. Dozens of police cars and ambulances screeched around corners. This went on for the next hour.

We made the long walk through the crowds to the Arlington T station, but not surprisingly, it was closed. Like thousands of others, we were left with this thought: Now what? People attempted to hail taxis, but with little luck.

We were fortunate. For the many others who are from out of town, or out of the country, I’m not so sure.

My brother lives in Brookline, not far from Mile 23 along the course. He works at Park Plaza, and he knows the city’s streets well. After struggling to get through to him, we finally connected and decided to go to the building in which he works – which was locked down – and waited for him to pick us up.

This is when my phone started to ping with calls and texts; people I don’t hear from all the time. I even heard a our neighbor from when we lived in Montana.

They all wanted to know if we were okay. Happily, we were. I don’t do a lot of texting and I struggle to type in the letters and characters, but I wanted to quickly get back to my friends and family members who were anxious for a response. (I can only imagine what it was like on 9/11).

After about a half an hour and another trip to the bathroom while waiting in the chilly breeze, my brother showed up and we were on our way. We couldn’t make it all the way back to his condo – streets were still closed due to the race – and we walked uphill to finally get there and reunite with my mother and sister-in-law. Time for hugs all around.

While we ate dinner (cheeseburgers and tater tots) we could still hear sirens. The enormity – the wave – of all this started to set in. I began to realize how lucky I was to be sharing a meal with my family while so many others were still frantically trying to contact theirs. If I had had a bad race and finished later than I had expected, I could have been near the explosions.

I also learned that in my wife, daughter and father were near that area while they were trying to get to me after the race.

To have President Obama and the Pope make statements also brings the size of this to my mind. I still can’t believe the race was suddenly stopped like that. Thousands made it 25 miles before they were halted. But with good reason.

The race

Before 2:50 p.m. yesterday, it was like any Marathon Monday. I felt jubilant at the start in Hopkinton and pumped my fist at the rowdy, AC/DC-blasting crowd at TJ’s Pub in Ashland. I saw a great sign near downtown Framingham that read “Smile if you’re not wearing underwear.” That made me smile, even though I was.

Running through Natick is always a goose bumps-raising affair. I grew up there, watched my first Marathon there as a 7-year-old. I somehow missed a group of friends who were gathered in west Natick. I went to get water, then I was closing in on Roche Bros., and realized I’d missed them. Oh well, no turning back.

I did see another group of friends near Natick Center. I was able to get a banana, a Gatorade and a few hand slaps from them before moving along. On to Wellesley.

After Natick, the route gets a little quieter. I almost forgot about what was coming: the Scream Tunnel.

This stretch near Wellesley College is almost absurd in its, what’s the word, enthusiasm, raucousness, boisterousness. Not sure if that last one is even a word, but you get the picture.

I usually get over to the other side of the road to avoid this scene. Runners are constantly cutting over to kiss the girls in the crowd. I just like to take it in from afar. Maybe someday I’ll get the nerve to swerve and pucker up.

My original plan was to shoot for a three-hour finish, which is a 6:50 pace. But because I was in a corral of 3:20 runners (I ran 3:22 at my qualifier on a hot day), I started slower than I wanted – not an altogether bad thing for a marathon.

It wasn’t until Mile 6 that the crowd began to lessen and I was free to run my desired pace. I made sure not to try to get back all that I’d lost all at once. I started to run sub-7s and was able to get to 13.1 miles in 1:31:50 – close to an overall 7-minute pace.

By the time I made the turn at the firehouse near Mile 18, I knew a sub-3 was out of the question. I still had the hills to go.

But I did not get discouraged. I kept going. I ran past many walkers, saying to myself “that’s not going to be me.”

Once finally at the top, I was overjoyed to be heading downhill. I was slowed by cramps in my hamstring and calf, but not stopped. I quickly headed to the side of the road to slap hands with the Boston College crowd. I did this for about a half mile and had to eventually pull away – my hand was starting to hurt from all the pounding flesh.

But it took my mind off how my legs were feeling. Near Mile 23 at Cleveland Circle, I knew I was about to encounter my mother and brother. They said they’d be near the Star Market, but I didn’t see them there. After a few blocks without spotting them, I almost gave up on seeing them. But soon I spotted my mother. Yes! I ran over to slap hands with my brother and hug my mother. It was just the surge of energy I needed.

The running-on-air feeling soon dissipated, but onward I went. The last hill is the bridge over the Pike near Kenmore Square. I made sure to focus on the top, and not run with my head down. This was the last hard stretch.

Once over, the turn for Hereford Street was all that remained. For the previous miles, I tried not to think about what my finishing time might be. 3:05? 3:06? I just focused on the space in front of me.

At Hereford, I thought breaking 3:10 might be something worth shooting for. I tried to pick up the pace. I focused on getting past that final left turn that reveals the finish line in the distance.

It soon became clear that even finishing with 3:10 on the clock wasn’t going to happen, but I didn’t slow. I was pleasantly surprised to hear my name announced (that was REALLY cool) as I approached the finish. I came in at 3:11 and was pleased and proud of my effort. There was no quit in me even as my goal time sailed out the window.

I soon put on a Mylar blanket, received my finisher’s medal and grabbed a bottle of water – one of many I’d need in the aftermath.

I soon began to feel lousy as I searched for the bus that shuttled my bag of belongings from Hopkinton to Boston.

The usual post-race activity includes lots of water and a little food. But it wasn’t long before the scene turned unusual. It’s still hard to process it all, but I’m glad to be home and that my family is safe.

My thoughts are with those (runners, spectators, family members) who were affected, whether physically or emotionally. Hope you can be with your loved ones today, something that gets taken for granted all too often.

 

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2 Responses to “One day later: Still hard to believe”


  1. 1 Erik
    April 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Hey Tim, great job. Glad to hear you and your family are safe! I didn’t know you were still writing the DumasProspectus, post BDC – but glad to find it again! Was thinking about you and wondering if you were running and after a quick google search – found your recap.
    Hope you’re well.
    Erik Petersen


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