Yesterday my heart broke. It broke in so many ways and in many little pieces and I’m not even really sure where to begin but I’m going to try. I don’t know if my words are right or wrong, but this is what came today, these are my words and my thoughts on this horrible event that happened yesterday…
The day was picture perfect. The sun was shining, the temperatures just warm enough but not too warm and a gorgeous day for a marathon. My day started at Mile 10. I was so excited because for the first time since I’ve lived in Boston I was going to see the elites run by. I excitedly watched Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher zoom by me followed shortly by the insanely fast men. I made friends with a man from Michigan whose wife Rachel was running, he was telling us about her and how after this they were going to start a very large family, “just a big soccer team size family” to be exact, after Boston and couldn’t be more excited. We joked that it was an overshare but then commented how the running community is a family so it makes it kind of ok. Rachel ran by and off he went. As the morning wore on all 146 Team In Training participants ran by. My voice started to get shaky from all my cheering and I received many sweaty hugs and high fives. It was awesome to be seeing a team I was part of last year running by and many of my teammates out again getting redemption from last years high heat. I felt so happy.
I headed to Mile 15 and reunited with my boss and coworker and continued to cheer the TEAM on. We couldn’t believe how many people were having amazing races. There were PR’s and amazing first marathons happening left and right…we were beyond excited for our team. After the last runner ran by all 3 of us headed to our cars. We hopped on Route 9 and headed into Boston. Our plan was to check in at our hotel suite with our other staff and a few would head to the finish line to watch the rest of the TEAM finish.
On my drive in I was reflecting on how happy marathons made me and was beginning to think about how I planned to run Boston in 2014. We headed into Boston with no troubles at all and then as we approached the Back Bay the traffic slowed. Traffic stopped and grid lock began right under the Prudential Building over pass and directly in front of the Marriott hotel…one block from the finish line. I started to notice there were too many people. Too many people were crying and hugging and walking wwwaaayyyy to fast for just having ran a marathon. And then the police and state police started emerging from everywhere. More police than I have ever seen in Boston in my entire life. Then I saw a line of about 5 to 6 cars…a 2001 baby blue Camry with a man yelling at cars to stop moving while putting on the bright yellow police jacket, an old minivan with 5 or 6 men suiting up in it and 3 more cars just like this behind it. It was then I knew something was wrong. Very wrong.
My phone rang and it was my coworker…miraculously she was 2 cars in front of me. The call went something like this “OMG WhitneytherewasanexpolosionatthefinishOMGIdontknowwhattodothisissoscaryanexplosion!” I told her to breathe deep and keep driving…she needed to pull into the first parking garage she could, I was 2 cars behind her and was right there. I think her panic kept me calm. Then my cousin Annbritt texted me, “Are you ok? There was an explosion at the finish…” I immediately texted her back to tell her I was ok and told her to call my parents and Michael. For the next hour she was pretty much the only person I could text. Calls wouldn’t go through, and texts were failing and my phone was beeping every second with a new text or call with someone looking for me. The sirens and ambulances trying to get by was unreal. I just sat in the car shaking and going with the traffic. We tried to pull into the Marriott parking garage but were told it was full so we just kept driving. As we sat at the intersection of Huntington Ave and Dartmouth Street our boss came running down the street and jumped in my co-worker’s car. She had been right near us the whole time and was able to ditch her car. My co-worker and I were yelling out our windows to each other trying to stick together and park our cars. I made it through the intersection but she was stopped. As I stopped on Stuart Street trying to determine if I could park in 100 Clarendon more ambulances than I could count blew by me with their sirens flashing. I sat paralyzed in the car, shaking. A man taking photos tapped on my window and told me to pull into the garage and told me it was ok. I pulled into the garage and parked on the first level…I was hoping my colleague saw where I went. Two minutes later she pulls in and takes the spot next to me.
The three of us headed to our hotel where we made it safely. We spent the next 4 hours establishing a plan and finding our participants. Thankfully everyone and their families were safe and accounted for. We heard incredible stories of kindness as we sat in the hotel suite waiting for news. Fossil was handing out clothing so runners could stay warm, spectators were giving people clothes off their backs, cell phones, food and even a place to stay safe. We heard of professors at BU opening their offices to runners and letting them make long distance phone calls. I heard countless stories of kindness and love.
Once I got to the hotel I was able to text my family and friends so people knew I was safe but it was only people with iPhones who I was able to talk to. I wasn’t able to talk to Michael for almost 3 hours and only some of my texts were going through. It was so scary and horrifying. We had no idea what was happening and if and when we could leave the city. The mixed news reports were terrifying and the entire time I was hoping for the best. Around 8pm we were able to leave the hotel. As I walked to my car I couldn’t ignore the eerie quite that had taken over what should have been such a busy night. The air smelled horrible and for the first time, Back Bay felt uncomfortable. I was never so happy to make it home to the suburbs and be greeted by Michael. I connected with my family and received many calls from caring friends. My head was pounding, my stomach hurt and my heart was broken.
Today I woke up hoping it was all a bad dream and it would all go away. But it didn’t, this is real life. I felt so empty today and just wanted to go back to bed. I’m saddened for the families of loved ones and the many many people who are injured. I’m sad for the runners who were stopped along the course. I’m sad for the spectators and everyone involved. And I’m shocked. I never thought something like this would happen in my world. I always thought I’d hear about it on the news and it would be in another city where I am not but now that seems so naive. Yesterday it happened in the city I not only call home but blocks, literally blocks, from my old apartment. And on Marathon Monday. It happened in my city and on a day I hold so close to my heart. I’m a runner and I’m proud of it. I’m a Boston Marathoner and proud of that too. Running is who I am, its how I define myself and this feels all to personal and for that it breaks my heart.
If I’ve learned one thing over the many years I’ve been running, it’s that the running community is a family. We lift each other up, share stories, encourage each other and give each other a shoulder to cry on. We are connected by the miles we run. I know that this will only make our family stronger, it will unite us. And Boston, well I’ve always known the love for this city runs deep but now I’m truly seeing it. We may be a city but it feels more like a small town. I know we will carry on.
I can’t predict what will happen in the world of running or how marathons and our sport will change as a result of this and I’m not going to try to. Time will tell. I can tell you that running takes courage, and strength and running a marathon is more about the mental ability to cover 26.2 than it is anything else. I know we are strong, and that the sadness will pass. I know we will continue to be connected by the miles we run, the charities we run for, the BQ’s we all dream of and so much more. Yesterday my love of running grew tremendously. My dream of a BQ became even stronger.
Today I ran. I ran for the victims, for Boston, for runners everywhere and for everyone who wasn’t able to cross that finish line yesterday. I will continue to run for those reasons and I hope you will too. Our marathons may be marred by heat and hurricanes and horrific events but as runners we always have the pavement, our training runs and our community to hold us together. Keep running and show the world the courage and strength we all have.
Thank you to all of you. Yesterday you made me feel blessed and cared for. There were so many texts and calls from my close family and friends, tweets from readers, comments and emails from so many of you who read faithfully but I’ve never actually met. I felt blessed and overwhelmed by the outpouring of concern and love. Thank you all for that…it is much appreciated and means more than you know…