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Mike Benge Wednesday, 17 April 2013 10:00 TWEET COMMENTS 3

The Runners' Web - Page 5

As we limped down Beacon away from the city, the course was still clogged with the 4000 runners who had not had the opportunity to finish. We saw lost family members embracing after reconnecting with their loved ones. We also saw runners without their loved ones, many of which were shivering from the cold, and clearly lost, with no cell phones to guide them to familiar faces. I witnessed one spectator offer her jacket to a cold fan who promised to mail it back.

The walk down Beacon was one I will never forget. To me the Boston Marathon has always meant many things: creating positive memories, pushing running to the forefront in the city dominated by traditional sports, celebration and bringing the city together. Many of these were ruined by Monday's tragedy but at the very least I have never seen the city closer.

 

WHITNEY DREIER, 29, of Los Alamos, New Mexico, is a freelance writer and avid trail runner.

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Whitney Dreier and her husband, Matt, pre-race.

I finished Monday’s Boston Marathon about 20 minutes faster than anticipated. I crossed the finish line both elated and exhausted. Most of my training had been on trails in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and 26.2 road miles was a shock to pretty much every muscle in my legs. All I wanted to do was sit. Sit and not get up. And I would have collapsed right then and there had volunteers not authoritatively—but kindly—ushered me to “just keep moving.” Just a little farther to pick up my Mylar blanket. Just a few more steps to claim my medal. Just several yards to bananas (I really wanted a banana). Just to the right and around the block to the family meeting area. OK, OK. I kept hobbling along.

When I did reach the letter “D,” where I had agreed to meet my husband, I found a spot on the curb, gingerly lowered myself to the ground, put my head between my legs and tried to decide if I wanted to eat that banana or puke up whatever mixture of Honey Stingers and water was left in my churning stomach.

At that time, the skies were cloudy, and I remember thinking how dark it seemed on the ground between the skyscrapers on Stuart Street. I willed the sun to come out to warm my salt-streaked face. It didn’t, so I wrapped my silver sheet a little tighter and waited for my husband. My husband finished the race just before 2 p.m., and we began walking back to our hotel.

A few blocks later, we heard a loud boom—similar to the thunder that wakes you up in the middle of the night. It was cloudy but there were no ominous clouds. Soon, the word “explosion” made its way down the street, pedestrian to pedestrian.

Within minutes, sirens blared from every direction. We screeched to a stop in the middle of an intersection as 10 policemen on motorcycles whizzed through. Helicopters appeared overhead.

An explosion. Was it a freak accident? A broken gas line? Was it on purpose? That very thought made me tear up as we shuffled back to the hotel. In the safety of our hotel room, I broke down and sobbed and clung to my husband, so thankful we were safe and so fearful of what we did not know.

In my previous 13 marathons, I’ve showered and slept as soon as possible after the race. This year, I sat on my hotel bed for hours, and watched the local news. I checked my phone, which I’d left in the room during the race. Dozens of texts, calls, emails and Facebook messages lit up the screen. People I hadn’t talked to in years, people on different continents, people who—under different circumstances—wouldn’t even know what the Boston Marathon is, were checking in to see if I was OK. I posted on Facebook that my husband and I were OK, a status that almost immediately garnered more than 100 “likes.”

Later that evening, runners gathered in the lobby. One guy from Oregon was in the medical tent when the blast happened, and he witnessed bloody victims being rushed in in wheelchairs. Another woman from Canada had less than a mile left, when she was ushered off the course by policemen. A third runner exclaimed over and over how grateful he was that he’d told his son, “I love you,” before the race.

Two days later, we still, unfortunately, don’t have many answers. But what is clear is that this senseless tragedy has brought the running community, the city of Boston, people across America, people all around the globe, together in a way that is stronger and more resilient than any act of terror. The kindness, courage and generosity of people at the scene of the bombings, at hospitals, in the community and beyond, is profoundly moving and inspiring. It’s also heartbreaking that it takes such a sick, hateful act for such compassion, love and selflessness to make headlines.

The Boston Marathon will never be the same—perhaps no race will ever be the same—but it will go on, and on April 21, 2014, the crowds will be bigger, louder and more passionate than ever.

 

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