Marathon No. 16: Euphoria, until 2:49

How many police cars do they need?

I had no idea of the scope of what just happened. All I could do was try and comprehend what I was hearing.

Two loud bangs

Sirens blaring, endlessly.

It was sensory overload.

But it was better than seeing what had just transpired a short distance away.

The 2013 Boston Marathon, my return to the race after a seven-year absence, was all I wanted it to be. The weather was cool, the crowd was boisterous and I tried to deliver as many high-fives as my bony hand could handle.

I saw my wife and daughter in Ashland at Mile 3. I saw my childhood friends in Natick. My mother and brother were stationed in Brookline near Mile 23. I got a cramp, but kept pushing forward. When I reached Hereford Street for the final right turn, there was a woman nearby that I started to race with. We didn’t say a word, but our paces quickened as we made the final left onto Boylston.

With the finish line in sight, this anonymous runner began to pull away. But just as I started to give up on this impromptu “chase,” my name was announced over the loud speaker.

What a feeling! I was still pumping my fist after I crossed the finish line. I had forgotten about that reaction because of what happened later, but a series of race photos that were sent to me a few days later captured the moment.

I had a good race. Ran a 3:11, the same time I ran seven years prior. After I reunited with my family, I sat on the ground for a while to help ward off a bout with nausea. I was looking forward to basking in the post-race euphoria. Then the clock ticked 2:49 – and the race – along with many lives – changed forever.

When it came time for me to get back on my feet and head for the bathroom, the first bomb went off. Then the second.

My first thought was “that didn’t sound good.” But there was no frenzy in the Family Meeting Area, which was a few blocks away from the finish line. We didn’t see any smoke, or panicked runners, or frightened spectators. All we could do was listen to what was happening around us.

Police cars and ambulances continuously screeched around corners. There seemed to be no end to the parade of responders. That’s when we decided to get out of there.

Along with my wife, daughter and father, we meandered through the crowd and found that the entrance to the subway was blocked. Our phones didn’t work.

No, this was not good.

Fortunately, we did get through to my brother, who lives near where I had just seen him at Mile 23. Fortunately, he worked in the city. Fortunately, he knew his way around all the road blocks and picked us up to shuttle us back to his condo.

As the sirens still sounded in the distance, we ate hamburgers and potato puffs.

Not everyone was so fortunate at that hour. Spectators lost their lives or had their legs blown off. Runners were suddenly stopped with a mile to go, and waited in the afternoon chill for … what? They weren’t allowed to finish. Their loved ones were not close by.

A friend of mine from Montana, who did finish but had no family waiting for him and was relying on the subway, walked to on on-ramp and stuck his thumb out. Another runner picked him up to get him away from the horrific scene.

The rest of the week was unnerving, even 40 miles away in Ayer. The bombers were still on the loose for a few days. I was fielding calls for interviews from Montana newspapers and TV stations.

The race was an afterthought.

It was great to be back for Boston. But not this way.




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