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Still Making Sense of Boston Marathon 2013

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Post  Vivian on Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:17 am

The 2013 Boston Marathon was my third Boston and fifteenth marathon overall. It had special meaning to me because, for various reasons, I decided it would be my last marathon for a good long time as I focus on other pursuits. In fact, I hadn't trained very much for this marathon and my only goal was to soak up the atmosphere, reflect on my running journey, and finish. My last two Bostons I was focused on a time goal so didn't have the same perspective that I had on Monday. I was relaxed, stress-free, and enjoyed meeting up with running friends. I had a great time at the food court gathering on Saturday and was excited that so many of them would be coming out to run or crew the JFK-50 for which I registered. Had a great lunch with Seth on Sunday in the North End. Passed the time in Athlete's Village with Michele, John, and Seth. The sense of ebullience and anticipation was palpable among all the runners gathered. There was a moment of silence for the Newtown victims--the only reminder that the world is not such a peaceful place. But surely that evil would not pierce the marathon where the best of human endeavor is celebrated--it was inconceivable.

I started in the same wave (10:40 am) and corral as Michele and we decided to run together as long as possible. She was injured and I was undertrained. We stuck together for the first 12 miles. Michele grew up in the very suburbs the race runs through in the early miles and provided great commentary on landmarks such as where she went to school, church, friends' homes, stories of those friends, etc. I marveled how the Boston course was like a story of her life and really enjoyed hearing it. It was a privilege to run with her. At mile 12, she stopped to talk to her Mom who still lives in Natick. I continued on and just soaked up the atmosphere that is legendary to Boston. I had no watch because I had left it in the charger back in my room. Ordinarily, I would be really stressed about this, but on Monday I didn't care one bit. I felt pretty good most of the way although I could tell that I was slowing down towards the Newton Hills. Never doubted that I could finish, however, and as I was getting closer to the end, I was in a celebratory mood. Not because I had run such a good race, actually it was one of my slowest, but because it was a culmination of years of dreams and accomplishments.

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston, I was almost at the finish. Staring down the finish line with less than 50 meters to go (sense of distance honed from running so many 100m repeats), I heard and saw the first explosion in the bleachers by the finish line. I was probably 30 meters, diagonally to the right, behind the blast. My initial reaction was that it sounded like the Howitzer they fire at the start of the Marine Corps Marathon, which I've run several times. That thought quickly replaced with, "Why would they do that?" My second thought was this was some overzealous celebratory stunt as I saw smoke and a floating yellow balloon wafting from the stands. Commotion ensued and I realized it was probably something a lot more serious. I ran to the right side rails and crouched down on the ground with my hands over my head and rolled up into a ball. Then I heard the second explosion coming from behind me and diagonal far to the left of me. I was right next to a MarathonFoto guy who frantically packed away his stuff and was getting out of there. I knew then I was in the midst of something really bad and got up and ran forward towards the finish line fully aware that I could be hit any moment. I ran in an act of faith knowing that God would choose to protect me or not just like he chose to spare some of the Newtown students and some not. I squeezed past a policeman just as he was barricading the finish line. What did not cross my mind as I was crossing the finish line was that I had finished. I had crossed to what was hopefully safety and got past the worst of the carnage. I broke down emotionally at how close I was to death. I recovered my senses enough to go through the motions of the Boston finish chute. My feelings were not those of a finisher; honestly, I didn't know what to think.

Looking back at video footage, I can see now how horrific the scene was. I did not fully appreciate how bad it was at the time. The only casualty I witnessed was a lady being carried out on a stretcher bleeding profusely. I saw a trail of blood just spraying from her lower body. It was horrible. No one knew what was going on yet, especially those on the other side of the finish line that had been fully barricaded by now. I went through the chutes and thankfully got my space blanket, food and water, medal, and baggage right before they closed the bag pick-up. I then wandered around for a good hour because all the roads to my hotel were closed off. Still no one knew what was going on. A runner who could not get any water or food asked me for mine because she was dehydrated and in bad shape. I gave her mine not knowing I was going to be wandering and walking for an hour before getting inside a building.

Of the many things I have to be thankful for this weekend, I am most thankful that my family did not come up with me. My husband and kids usually accompany me and this year my daughter had too much homework so I told them to stay home. In 2011, we sat in those very stands that I saw blow up to watch the Invitational 1-miler held the day before the marathon. They would have been standing right there at the very moment of the explosions to watch me finish.

I could not get to my hotel (Westin) so ended up at John's hotel (Hilton). I called up to his room but he was not there so I worried about him. My cell phone was not working and I asked the hotel desk to let me use their phone. I got in touch with my husband Brian at almost 4 pm, over an hour after reports of this happened. He had asked a coworker to check what time the blast happened and calculated that I was finishing at the same time this happened. With cell phones not working, many of my family and friends were reaching out to social media to find out what had happened. Brian got in touch with Seth but Seth hadn't seen me. Finally, I got in touch with Brian and he was able to relay to everyone else that I was okay. For my parents, this brought back memories of 9/11 where we were all frantic with worry for my brother who worked on Wall Street.

I could not leave the Hilton and I have to say the staff really stepped up. They provided water bottles, bananas, and hot chocolate to everyone milling about the lobby, whether guest or not. I had a splitting headache and they gave me Tylenol. They let me make as many phone calls as I wanted to make, which ended up being a lot of phone calls to my frantic parents and others. Meanwhile, I got in touch with John who was stuck at a restaurant. He was kind enough to ask the staff to make me a key so I could take a shower in his room. I ended up taking a shower in the fitness room using his key and felt much better. Not wanting to hang out in an empty hotel room, I went back down to the lobby where everyone was just as shell-shocked as I was. Just having the presence of others who had gone through this was comforting. Finally, John, Lisa, and Martin made it back to the hotel. Lisa, Martin, Martin's mom, their baby Christina, and dog could not get back to their hotel either. We all hung out in John's room. What should have been a celebration didn't turn out that way. I was in no mood to celebrate. I wanted a cab out of there. But the cabs were not running and the streets were closed off. It wasn't until 8 pm that the Schumachers and I were able to leave the Hilton. National Guard were lining the streets with machine guns. Martin was kind enough to give me a ride back to my hotel. I had planned to drive down that afternoon to my brother's house in Jersey which is half way between Boston and my home in Washington, but by the time I got back to my hotel, it was 8:30 pm and I didn't feel in a condition to drive 4 hours so late at night. Thankfully, the Westin comped me a room for the night so I could make the drive back to Washington fresh the next morning. I didn't feel like my ordeal ended until yesterday when I was back home and able to give big hugs to Brian and my kids. I am also glad to read here and through Facebook that all of us are okay. My prayers go out to those who were not so fortunate and I hope the perpetrators are found and brought to justice. I hope too that these events will not kill the marathoner's spirit.

Many images of the Boston Marathon finish will be seared in my mind. There were the booms of the two explosions, and the blood draining from the injured woman. But the most eerie was the sight of the yellow balloons wafting slowly in a cloud of smoke after the first explosion. Haunting because balloons are a symbol of celebration and joy, but after my initial thought of an overeager prank gone awry, realizing that someone had probably let it go, probably grievously injured, and that innocence had gone up in smoke.







Last edited by Vivian on Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:48 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Post  carleenp on Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:38 am

I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like or how such an experience would affect me. Thanks for sharing that and I'm glad that you and the rest of the people from this forum are OK. I'm also glad that you all were able to be there for each other. It shows how forums such as this can be truly wonderful things.
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:42 am

Hugs!!!!! I knew you and Ken (I could see his hat as he left me at my daughter) were right in front of me, and I am so glad you were safe. When I finally got my phone, someone had already told the group that everyone was accounted for but me, so I was happy (and sad and grateful). I'm glad I hung onto that room in the Hilton Wink My hotel is still locked down, and they have not yet charged me for my room. I also left some laundry there that had not been returned. Whatever - only clothes.

I will be in better shape and I will be there at JFK! It will be a privilege to run some of those miles with you - I'll think of what ever I can say to pass the time.

By the way, remember the guy who talked to us in Natick and you asked him if he was running for World Vision. He was with me when we stopped in front of the Mandarin Oriental.
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Post  KBFitz on Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:45 am

Thanks for this Vivian.

I'm very pleased Brian and the kids were not waiting for you at the finish line this time. You write that many images will be seared in your mind. True. Particularly so as you were so very close to the actual violence. Thirty meters from a blast that resembles a howitzer is way too close for comfort.

PTL you're alright.

Still waters.
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Post  Bob on Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:52 am

Speechless, but thankful that you shared this with us. You were in our thoughts and prayers on Monday, and will continue to do so.
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Post  John Kilpatrick on Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:55 am

So glad that you and everyone else is OK.

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Post  jon c on Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:10 pm

I am thankful that you are ok Vivian. The experience for you, Michele, and John P. was much different than mine. Being there at the actual time of the explosions is obviously so much more impactful.
The stories of those that helped others, and even of you helping the dehydrated runner are so moving. As a country we have so much diversity. Incidents like this show how much we have in common.
Wish you the best at JFK and I enjoyed meeting you at the food court Saturday.
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Post  Michael Mitchell on Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:15 pm

So glad you are ok Vivian. Wow. Just wow. I am still just speechless over this....
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Post  ounce on Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:16 pm

That was a very descriptive and excellent report, Vivian. And I'm glad that you are physically fine.

I didn't realize the time on the finish line clock was specific for your wave. Nor did I realize the importance of your 4 hour 10 minute time until your report. I was tracking all 10 of our runners off the BAA website and figured if you finished, you got past it before the explosion. I figured wrong.

And I loved your attitude before the race started, re-inforced by your watch patiently waiting on its charger for you to take it for your run.

Well done.
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Post  Mark B on Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:21 pm

I'm so sorry you found yourself in the middle of this horrific moment. Thank God you were on the opposite side of the road, and thank God that your family stayed at home this time. The thought of what could have been makes my blood run cold.

Thank you for sharing your story. And I'm thankful to see all the support and kindness extended to you by your friends, fellow runners and their families, and the people of Boston. If there's any good to come out of this whole thing, it's the reminder of how good people can be.
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Post  KathyK on Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:24 pm

Vivian, I'm so glad that you are safe...good gosh, you were directly between the two bombs! Terrifying!! I'm certain that nothing felt as good, or will ever feel as good, as being home in the arms of your family.
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Post  Seth Harrison on Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:45 pm

Vivian, I was so relieved to finally get in touch with you several hours after the explosions. (I'm guessing it was several hours because things are still such a blur). I'm so sorry you were as close to the blasts as you were, but incredibly thankful that you're ok. I had such a great weekend hanging out with you and all of our friends, right up to Athlete's Village. I'm still trying to process this, but I'm having a hard time, especially today. Knowing that you and all of our friends made it home safely is giving me comfort. Thank you for putting in to words what I couldn't.
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Post  mountandog on Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:14 pm

too close for comfort. thanks for sharing.
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Post  Paula Sue on Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:23 pm

Golly Vivian, I'm without words. I am so glad you and all of my virtual friends are safe, as well as your families. As I ponder all that has happened, I remember back to my Boston Marathons, the feelings, the joy, the pain, the huge sense of accomplishment. I can't imagine how deep the emotional wounds go when all those feelings are disturbed by such a tragedy. God bless you all...take care and know that you are in my prayers as you recover from what you saw and witnessed on Patriots Day 2013.
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Post  Colleen on Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:52 pm

Vivian, thank you for sharing your experience. I'm so happy that you are alright, and that your family was not there at the finish line this year. And I'm glad that you had so many friends (and strangers!) there for you all to help each other through.

I hope that you are recovering well and that I will see you out at a race soon!
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Post  Julie on Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:05 pm

I'm thankful you're OK Vivian. I can't read these reports without crying and I've been in Nebraska this whole week....

Thank you for sharing your story. Many hugs to you and I am so glad your family stayed home and you didn't have to worry about them although I'm sure your husband had quite the time waiting for your call.
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Post  mountandog on Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:15 pm

@Julie wrote: I can't read these reports without crying



I am so there. Mad as hell, but just can't help it.
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Post  Julio on Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:47 pm

((hug))
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Post  Natalie63 on Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:03 pm

Well, I ended up reading your report on my phone after all. Good thing I had my glasses!What an experience -- the highest of highs and the lowest of lows all in the course of a couple of days. I am so happy that you are home and safe! It was good to hear your voice today. I'll be in Maryland next month for graduation. Don't know what activities I'm required to attend, but if I have some time, I'll be in touch.

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Post  Martin VW on Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:12 pm

Glad everything worked out OK, Vivian. I was trying to help Brian to triangulate your position via Facebook while he frantically tried to locate you and I'm afraid I botched it a bit. Someone had said here that they had seen video of the race clock being at ~ 4:09 when the bomb went off, and knowing that you had posted a finishing time and hadn't started until 10:30 I thought you were well clear of the area. I couldn't have been more wrong! Please let him know I'm sorry if aded to his confusion at all.

Anyway, I'm glad you're OK. Thansk for sharing your thoughts with us.
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Post  Mike MacLellan on Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:13 pm

"Haunting because balloons are a symbol of celebration and joy, but after my initial thought of an overeager prank gone awry, realizing that someone had probably let it go, probably grievously injured, and that innocence had gone up in smoke."

Chills.
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Post  Dave-O on Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:55 pm

Thank you for sharing, Vivian. I can't even imagine what it must have been like. I've been getting chills just thinking about it during every run I've gone on since. So glad to hear you are okay.
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Post  mul21 on Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:58 pm

Wow. Just wow. I don't think I can come up with anything more than that. So glad you, and everyone else from here, are okay.
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Post  Jerry on Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:06 pm

@Julio wrote:((hug))

Never uncool to follow Julio.

((Hug))
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Post  Nick Morris on Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:52 pm

Vivian, I am so glad that you made it through alright. All of us that were tracking you guys knew that there was a group that would be finishing around the time everything happened. I know, sitting at my desk at work, that I was concerned for everyone's safety. If this is indeed your last marathon for a while, I am sorry that your last memories (which should be happy) are marred by the events that unfolded.
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