Leading up to Boston
As many of you know, my husband is a runner and he worked hard for years to qualify for the Boston marathon. He qualified in 2011 but couldn’t get in the 2012 race because it was full. He ran the Wrightsville marathon in March 2012 and improved his time (2:53) and his chances of getting in (Boston registration is prioritized by best qualifying times for your age group). My husband’s excitement started when he received the registration confirmation and continued up to our trip. We were also looking forward to seeing my sister, from California, who was also running the race. She was registered to run in 2012 but due to the unusually high temperatures she opted to defer her race to 2013!
Walt and I debated for quite some time on whether or not to take the kids and how many nights to stay. We decided to make it a mini vacation with our youngest, nine month old Townes. Walt kicked up his training to the next level for Boston (the grandaddy of marathon as he puts it). He was running up to 70-80 miles a week. With the exception of a few days when he was incredibly sick, he ran every day of the week, rain or shine (or ice and snow) and even in 20 degree weather (yes, he is passionate about running and racing). I was proud of his dedication and determination. He felt really strong going into the race. However, I was a little concerned how Townes would impact his sleep but then again his sleep had been disrupted through the whole training program so I guess he’d become accustomed to it.
We Arrive to Boston
Our trip to Boston was fairly uneventful. When you travel with young kids, uneventful is a blessing. Townes smiled and flirted with everyone around us. Ladies just loved his snaggle tooth grin. We arrived to Boston, took a cab to the hotel (which was fabulous by the way), checked in, changed the baby, repacked the diaper bag and then headed off to the Expo which was packed! There were people everywhere. We saw a few people we knew from Charlotte, chatted, I bought some running shoes (hoping the running mania would rub off on me), and then decided to call it a day. It was past Townes bedtime so we ordered room service. They delivered our meals on a formal white tablecloth setting. It would have been great if we weren’t taking turns eating while the other rocked the baby to sleep. (Yes, I know I should have left Townes at home – maybe next time).
We started with an early wake up cry from Townes, a quick breakfast before meeting Mel at Copley Square. We had a late lunch, took a nap (I can’t remember the last time that happened), Walt even took a quick dip in the hot tub before we met Mel for dinner. We turned in early so Walt could get some rest before the big day. I was tempted to read a few magazines because 9 pm felt a little early for even me but in the toss up between the bed or bathroom floor the bed won.
It was an exciting day for many! Even Townes couldn’t sleep. Walt was up and out before 6 am. We texted back and forth a couple of times as I wished him luck. He and Mel were on the bus waiting for start time.
I ended up watching the start from the hotel. I thought I’d have a better chance of watching Walt on TV but it went by too fast. He was in the first wave and Mel was in Wave 2 which started 20 minutes later. Shortly after Wave 2 started the race, I strapped Townes in the Bjorn and headed out. I assumed the finish line would be packed with spectators and given my 5’2” height, I thought it would be hard to see Walt finish. Instead, I planned to take the subway (called the T) to try to see Walt around Boston College (approx mile 21 of the race). There was a baseball game going on as well so three trains passed before there was room to get on.
While waiting, I received my first text alert that Walt passed the 10k mark at 10:39am running a 6:17 pace. While I was on the train, I received my first alert that Melissa hit the 10k mark at 11:12 running a 7:59 pace. She was injured so she was projecting a slower than normal run of 4 – 4 ½ hours. She was running way faster than she had planned so I hope this meant she was feeling better! By the time I made it out toward the university, I had already received alerts that Walt passed the half marathon and 30k marks. I quickly realized I wasn’t going to make it. A kind gentleman that was familiar with the course recommended I get off at an earlier stop than planned and directed me where to go. As I got off the train, I recognized a Charlotte runner, Chad, run by. He runs faster than Walt so chances were I didn’t miss him. The crowd was already 2-3 people deep so I found a small opening that was only 1 deep and right then saw Walt coming. I asked if they mind if I squeezed in to see him and they graciously made room. I started cheering for Walt (which made Townes cry hysterically). There was no way Walt could hear me over the crowd but then everyone around me started cheering Walt’s name. He scanned the crowd as he was passing and smiled and pointed when he spotted us!! It was such a thrill to get to see him, to know he saw us and see how well he was doing!! He was right on track to hit his goal time of 2:45-2:47. Once he passed, I thanked the spectators around me, calmed Townes and headed to take the T back to meet Walt in the family gathering section (I knew I wouldn’t make the finish).
Walt and I found each other shortly past the finish line (thankfully he had his cell phone). We walked down Newbury looking for a location to celebrate, however, I had to make a pit stop when I received a text that my sister had passed the 35k! Yay!! She was maintaining a good pace! I thought it would be great to see her finish! She didn’t want the audience but she lives in San Fran and I’m never able to see her race. We were so close to the finish that we decided to head back and see her. We ended up a little past the finish line. That meant we wouldn’t be able to see her finish but since the crowd was a little lighter there than before the finish we had a better chance of seeing her and getting her attention since she wasn’t expecting us. I’m so thankful that she had a great run because otherwise she was projecting to cross the line right before the explosion occurred.
We cheered for Mel, chatted on the sideline and then she went to get her bag and meet us at a restaurant on the corner to celebrate. The restaurant was more of night club that was dark and loud. Not my preference but it was close with no wait. We sat down ordered drinks, did a toast and Mel and Walt started talking about the race while I tried to manage my bouncing baby boy.
Around 2:30, my husband felt and heard a boom but thought maybe it was the bass of the loud music until we saw the cooks coming out of the kitchen and the bar staff leave the bar. That’s when we knew something was going on. However people were running toward the race instead of away from it so we didn’t suspect what we were soon to learn. Walt went to check it out and returned saying there was an explosion at the finish line. My initial thought was that maybe it was a transformer until one of the girls that went to check it out came back hysterical using the words “blood bath”. The bar didn’t have a TV and there was nothing on the news sites yet so Walt jumped on Twitter while I called my brother. He answered excitedly telling me that Walt placed 578 (of over 23k that started) when I frantically told him what we knew. He quickly searched and found that two explosions occured with dozens injured several lost limbs. We saw some horrific photos online and started wondering what was going to happen next. The restaurant went into lock down, sirens were coming from all directions, the police caution tape was strung along the gated barrier in front of the restaurant and initial shock turned to disbelief and fear.
At first, I was so thankful we were all together but then I started thinking “what if we hadn’t waited for Mel then we wouldn’t know where she was”, “what if Mel hadn’t run as fast as she did, she could have been hurt by the blast”, “what if she hadn’t run as fast as she was and we decided to get closer to the finish”, “what if we had all the kids – Jacob would surely want to be at the finish”, “wait, we have Townes, what if he was hurt, how could I put him in harm’s way and bring him here – but wait, this is a marathon, we’ve been to them before, they aren’t dangerous, it’s not risky, something like this doesn’t happen, how could this happen, why? how? there were dozens of cops at every intersection”, “what about those unsuspecting innocent people whose lives have been changed for ever, they didn’t deserve this”. All this within just a few quick minutes.
About an hour later, we chose to leave the restaurant. We exited the back in an ally, we were leary of everyone on the street. When we emerged on the street (on Newbury parellel street to Boylson), things were drastically different. It went from orderly hustle and bustle from earlier with everyone congratulating Walt, who was wearing his Boston Marathon jacket, to people everywhere dazed and confused. The outdoor restaurants we considered eating at where abandoned. Emergency vehicles were coming and going. The further away we walked the more chaos and confusion. As we walked through Boston Commons, people approached us to know if we knew what was going on or if they could borrow our cell phones since calls weren’t going through. Mass transit system was closed so large crowds of people (some who were still unaware of the explosion) were congregating outside the subway station doors. We mechanically walked back to our hotel. It wasn’t until we returned around 5 that calls and texts started coming through and we started to learn the magnitude of the tragedy. We cycled through a whirlwind of emotions from disbelief, to fear, to anger, sadness, gratitude and then a deep sense if pride in America and all the people that provided aid.
After the Boston Bombing
We found it hard to pull ourselves away from the TV and to recall the excitement we felt just a few hours prior. We were supposed to be sight seeing and enjoying a nice dinner out and instead I was praying it was over and to return home safely to the kids. I struggled falling asleep as the images from Twitter haunted me. I’d never been exposed to such injuries.
The next day everyone was talking about the previous day’s event. Everyone stopped to ask my husband if he was able to finish and where he was when it happened. We heard other people’s stories. The airport seemed normal, although our flight was delayed. We later learned while preparing for take-off the flight was delayed due to a suspicious package on the plane. While it was most likely nothing, it reminded us that the suspects had not been identified and were still at large so additional terror could occur. It intensified the desire to return home. This senseless crime, took away the joy and happiness from so many and for what reason? Why target a marathon? Marathoners run 26.2 miles. It goes without saying they are dedicated to their sport and their passion for running is unshaken. I fully expect they will return next year even stronger.
We returned safely to Charlotte to give my little ones extra big hugs and Walt, who was sore from running 26.2 miles and then walking several more, participated in a mile vigil in honor of the Boston victims.
(Lily reuniting with Townes during Jacob’s baseball game. She probably gave him 20 hugs)
Thanks to all those who called, texted and messaged us on Facebook. We are humbled by your care and concerns. Our thoughts are with those that were wounded and the survivors that lost loved ones as we continue to look for ways to show rememberance and provide assistance.