Tuesday, April 16, 2013

KBO Boston

My friend mentioned this paraphrasing Winston Churchill: “Keep Buggering On Boston.” Like everyone in the running community and around the world, I was struck by the tragic news on Monday. There have been tears with every sad news story and all the coverage of the finish line.

For many years Boston was a pilgrimage. I’d meet up with training partners, stay with some family friends, spend time with family, drink celebratory Harpoon, stop at Mike’s Pastry, and there was ALWAYS post-race JPLick’s. The Boston Marathon is built on tradition and I certainly enjoyed several of my own. For so many people who struggle for years to qualify, getting to the start line in Hopkinton is biggest running goal. The run into Boston is a celebration; it’s a 26.2 mile long tail-gate. I’ve had good races and bad races in Boston. But even when the running stops being fun (like the Newton Hills), the event, the volunteers, the crowds are still world-class.
The first year I ran Boston was in 2004. I was 22 and a senior in college. I flew out by myself and stayed with some friends (Mark and Bobbi) of my uncle, who had recently switched hospitals from Brigham and Women’s in Boston to Bellevue in NYC. Mark and Bobbi were extremely helpful and accommodating, but I went through most of the marathon motions on my own. This was totally fine with me. I knew I’d never feel alone among the thousands of runners in the city. All the fans and participants were so welcoming.
I wasn’t having a particularly good run. As a relatively new runner, I didn’t realize the importance of listening to my body 3 weeks prior when I began feeling pain in my left foot. That pain, which I tried to mask with Tylenol on race morning, became increasingly strong shortly after heartbreak hill. I’m guessing somewhere around Boston College is when the 3rd metatarsal in my foot really broke (days later after flying back to Spokane I could see the break on an x-ray from way across the room). From about mile 22 on I hobbled past the CITGO sign and Fenway, tears and frustration on my face. But when I took a right turn onto Hereford and that famous left turn onto Boylston, I ran. I crossed that sweet stretch of road that is the finish line of the Boston marathon and hugged a volunteer.
I was wheeled into the medical tent and taped up with athletic tape, but the race medics could only take care of me so far, unless I wanted to go to the hospital. They helped me find my dry clothes bag and I figured I could call Mark and Bobbi to pick me up, even though my original plan was to take the train. This was before I had a cell phone, so I called my dad from a pay phone but he didn’t have the phone number to where I was staying (I’m never this ill-prepared).
What happened next is quintessential Boston Marathon camaraderie: I hung up the phone and started crying. I had just run a marathon, my foot was broken, and I had no way of getting home unless it was crawling to find a cab. A spectator came up to me and asked me what was wrong. Between sobs, I explained and he calmly figured out a plan. He’d carry me on his back to the T, we’d get off at the Back Bay, and his friend’s husband would drive me to Jamaica Plain where I was staying. Sweaty, snotty, salty, and gross, I climbed up onto this stranger’s back and he carried me down the stairs of the T, onto the crowded train, and to his friend’s car. As he left I asked if there was any way I could repay him and his response was: “no, just be sure to thank a soldier.” He’s an angel is what I’ve come to believe. His friends dropped me off and I made it home safely. I went on to run Boston 6 more times and every finish line was special.
This act of kindness was simply for a stupid girl who didn’t have the phone number to where she was staying and didn’t listen to her body when she probably shouldn’t have been running. I can only imagine the outpouring of kindness and love by the spectators, volunteers and runners who were there yesterday. I’m inspired and hopeful for this world because of the people who ran to help, the spectators who opened the arms and their homes as we mourn, and the running community who will rise above this.
Yesterday I had 2 cousins running (they finished in 2:52 and 3:05) as well as their dad (my uncle). My cousins were waiting in the family reunion area and my uncle was at mile 25 when the explosions happened. My other cousins, who live in Boston and my aunt, were on the train en route to the finish line. It was a bit chaotic, but they met up relatively quickly (within an hour) and soon got out of the city safely. I felt so badly for my uncle whose dream it was to finish the Boston marathon with his sons, but then I was happy to know he was safe with family.
The Boston Marathon is and always will be a very special race for me and for every runner who toes the line. It’s hard to know the crippling impact of yesterday’s tragic events and what it means for future races, but I do know this: There are very few things I would trade for the ability to run down Boylston on Patriot’s Day.
I’m sure I’ll run Boston again, maybe next year, maybe years from now. It’s too soon to tell, but until then Keep Buggering On Boston.


  1. Love this story! The running community is the BEST.

  2. Wow, the story of your first Boston Marathon is pretty crazy. It's so awesome that a complete stranger was that helpful and selfless. I've no doubt there were hundreds of folks like him extending their help to others on Monday. It's an inspiring race for many reasons.