Monday, April 14, 2014

SOMETHING DIDN'T SEEM RIGHT

On April 15, 2013, fifty-two weeks ago, I ran my 16th Boston Marathon

In 2012, near-record temperatures turned my race into a death march.

But April 15, 2013 was different. Skies were clear, the air was crisp, and conditions were near perfect.

For the first time in my 16 Boston races, rather than take the bus, I was dropped off at the athlete's village by my wife.

As she drove away, though, something didn't seem right.

I'm no longer a young runner, and my best marathon times are behind me. Perhaps I thought that I would drop out somewhere along the way, or shuffle across the finish line, embarrassing myself with a poor time.

As the race developed, however, the crowds seemed more enthusiastic, the hills less steep, the finish on Boylston sweeter than ever. An older gentleman sat perched above the finish line, chanting at regular intervals, "Great race. Welcome to Boston."

At age 59, I had turned in a 3:04 marathon time. It was time to meet up with my wife and celebrate.

In my gear bag I had forgotten to pack an extra pair of shoes, so my bloodied, blistered feet would be ensconced in my racing flats for some 12 hours.

At Legal Seafood, in the Lord and Taylor Mall, across Boylston Street, I ordered a Guinness, took a sip, then snapped a picture, which I posted with the caption, "A great day in Boston."

As the waitress arrived to take food our order, we heard the sound of a muffled cannon blast, which reverberated through the building. The waitress asked, "Was that thunder?"

I replied, "It couldn't be. It's sunny outside."

Then, hell was unleashed.

Quickly, we evacuated the building. My wife walked briskly, while I struggled to move on tired, wobbly legs.

Dazed and a bit bewildered, when my wife said, "What do you think that was?" I incoherently responded, "It was probably kids."

Fifteen minutes later, as we boarded a chaotic subway car, we heard the word, "bombs." I simply couldn't wrap my mind around the concept.

 Someone informed us that the race had been suspended.

What about our friends?

How about that guy perched above the finish line? "Is he dead?" I mused aloud.

At a restaurant/bar near Faneuil Hall, our phones beep incessantly, as concerned family and friends inquired about our safety.The world seemed to know more about the situation than we did.

A year later, I still don't understand the reason why someone would attempt to destroy a celebration of life with death and devastation.

Injury will keep me from running this year's race, but runners and spectators will make this year's Boston a celebration of life like none other.

Running transcends terror, it knows no borders, it rises above political pettiness.

Runners banded together all over the world to lend a hand to those who support them as spectators, the very ones who suffered the most from this senseless act.

Runners and their followers are bigger and more united than any person or group that spews hatred.

We are more than strong.

We are "Boston Strong."