4:09:43. That's what the marathon clock read when the first of two blasts ripped through hundreds of spectators and runners along the finish line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon; a race I had just finished an hour earlier.
Today, as I struggle to comprehend the events that occurred in Boston on Monday April 15, 2013, I truly realize just how close I had become to being in the middle of the devastation. 9/11, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Atlanta, Columbine, Aurora, Oak Creek, Oklahoma City, the list grows. You can't truly grasp the enormity unless you or your loved ones are involved. I get it now.
The lights of downtown Boston the night before the marathon
Greg McMillan released his new book at this year's Boston Marathon Expo. In doing so, McMillan Running Company had a booth for the three-day event. We sold copies of the book, watched Greg sign away, and, most importantly, had the opportunity to meet hundreds of athletes that have worked with us over the years.
The McMillan Running booth at the expo.
Greg McMillan, Miguel Almeida, and I at the Boston Marathon Expo
I saw old and new ultrarunning buddies. Hung out at the adidas booth and attended one of their event soirees. On race day, I bumped into a number of friends on a race course with more than 27,000 runners strung out across it. I miraculously dodged countless runners as we dipped, wove, and danced through fast moving and crowded aid stations. Several friends were able to spot me from the sidelines and cheer me on through the throngs of runners. Our weather was ideal, much better than the heat and humidity folks struggled through a year earlier. I ran for 26.2 miles and just barely squeaked under the 3-hour mark by 28 seconds. I had finally run the famous Boston Marathon! All amazing benefits of good timing.
Greg and I post race. The explosions would occur 40 minutes later and a block to our right. (photo by Tracy McMillan)
However, when timing really counted, I found myself among the extremely lucky. I was back in my hotel, about three quarters of a mile from the finish line, when the bombs exploded. Many of my friends and athletes I coach were much closer and missed the explosion by mere minutes. Then there were those literally standing on the bombs when they detonated. I, you, we could have very easily been in their place, with their injuries, and emotionally and physically scarred forever.
After the initial disbelief had faded, anger was certainly one of my first real reactions. "What I wouldn't give to get my hands on the person or persons responsible." I actually spent time scheming of ways how I, personally, could end that person's life as slowly and as painfully as possible. Then I took a breath and realized I had immediately brought myself to their level and that the health of my family, my friends, and myself were paramount. I had to reach out to everyone: my friends, my coaching athletes, my colleagues and their families and make sure everyone was okay. I had to let my own family know I was safe.
Monday evening I ventured from my hotel, skirted around the closed and closely guarded city blocks, to Boston Common to have dinner with friends. Columbus Avenue was lined with at least two dozen pre-postioned ambulances. I walked by a building that had been turned into a staging area. Soldiers dressed in full body armor and armed with assault rifles guarded the doors. Within stood marathon runners still dressed in their day's running attire and wrapped in foil blankets. They still hadn't made it back their hotels. News vans and trucks of all sizes littered the streets as reporters spoke into cameras. Though the state of emergency was apparent this city was still alive with people continuing to do what they needed to do. Boston did not close shop and lock the doors.
Ambulances staged on Columbus Avenue.
What makes the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon so horrific are the fact that they were carried out intentionally and with such malice and evil intent. The purpose being to incite terror, fear, and destruction on the innocent and to alter the way YOU live your life and make decisions.
I believe in karma. Those that caused the Boston Marathon tragedy will get what they deserve. We need not worry about that. Now is the time we must support those injured and those that have lost the ones they love. Reach out to those who love you, let them know they are in your thoughts. We will continue to run forward. The 118th Boston Marathon will go forth on April 14th, 2014. 27,000 ambitious runners will again toe the line and show more strength and solidarity than ever while striding down the home stretch on Boylston Avenue.
The start of the 2013 Boston Marathon (photo by the Washington Post).
Here are a few other pieces by running authors I admire. Here they share their thoughts on the awful tragedy in Boston: