I heard 2 explosions. Someone behind me said, “That was a car bomb!” We all turned to see smoke rising between the buildings behind us. I thought to myself that this is one of those defining moments and the smartest thing to do is to move away from the smoke. In my mind, the smoke was billowing towards us and it would be followed by more explosions and more smoke. As my thoughts were forming, the Boston Athletic Association staff began leading us to exit the corrals straight ahead onto Arlington Street. I was walking forward, at the pace you walk after you just raced 26.2 miles, and fumbling to call my boyfriend and hold onto my water, food, checked bag.
People keep asking me what the other runners were doing. I don’t recall really. We were just all walking and calling. Not a lot of chaos with a group of post-marathoners. We lack mental clarity and physical agility. We are just moving along in disbelief.
Finally, Joe answered my call and I told him to meet me in a hotel that I was standing beside at that point. He was with our friends in the family meeting area on a side street. He couldn’t see the smoke and I sensed he lacked the urgency that I felt to exit the area immediately. But, they all said they would come meet me. Then the phone service cut off. And my texts were not going through.
Some time passed before we all found each other. We were all wandering around the hotel lobby, connecting with other running friends, checking on everyone’s status. My training team coach was emailing and trying to account for us all based on our finishing times. Friends, co-workers, family all began texting, emailing, calling. All of our phones going off continually. But, we couldn’t respond to everyone. Failed calls and texts. Some would go through. Facebook wouldn’t load for any of us.
“We need to get out of here” is all I was thinking. We have accounted for our Richmond friends. Now let’s move to safety. So, the 6 of us began our journey back to our hotel. We were staying in Cambridge, which seemed much safer than being downtown. The subway was closed, so that was not an option. We tried to hail a cab and the driver shook his head at us. About the same time, the sirens blasted as we had to move out of the way of several black SUVs racing through the streets. We were thinking SWAT team, bomb squad. All the while, all of our phones were blowing up with texts and emails, some of which we could reply, but most were fails.
Stopped in our tracks as the black SUVs swirled past, we looked up to see we had accidentally stumbled upon “Cheers”, which we wanted to see anyway. Everyone wanted to go inside. I wanted to get back to our hotel. I was convinced this isn’t over. But, we went inside. There was no seating, and I wondered why everyone was sitting so calmly, eating and drinking. Did they know what just happened? We asked the hostess for walking directions back to the Cambridge Marriott and we continued our journey.
The 6 of us were walking and messaging and attempting phone calls. Occasionally, one of us would get through. When we finally made it back, we sat together in the hotel restaurant and watched the events unfold on the television. Until then, we didn’t really know exactly what had happened and certainly not how it had impacted those people at the finish line during the blasts.
The hard part was that all of us were very proud of our performances. We wanted to celebrate the grand finale of a long training season and enjoy that satisfying feeling of accomplishment and relief. In light of the tragic events and the uncertainty of whether or not there will be more events occurring, it was not only not possible, but certainly inappropriate to celebrate. We settled for a toast to our success and quickly turned our thoughts back to others who were truly affected by the bombings as we continued to watch the news coverage.
Somewhere during this time at the Marriott, we finally were able establish phone contact with our teenage daughters. I assumed my texts had gone through. I assumed they knew we were fine. I was wrong. They had heard about the bombings and knew that we had crossed the finish line, but they were not sure how close we would have been at the time of the explosions. And because they hadn’t heard from us, they were very upset. They had been on the phone with each other, trying to piece together what each one of them had heard. I think the first good news for them was when one of my friends posted on Facebook that he had spoken with me.
There is a quote I have seem many times before that quite simply describes the marathon experience. It most definitely has even deeper meaning for anyone who ran the 2013 Boston Marathon. I leave you with this short and deeply profound quote.
“The person who starts the race is not same person who finishes the race.”