People often ask me in wonderment, how can you run 26 miles? Answering with such knowledge of what makes a strong
runner physically and mentally persevere is my pat answer. At the start line of Boston Marathon in Hopkinton, a prayer tent was set up in front of a Korean Presbyterian Church. Several members of the church laid hands on me and prayed for
my injured knee and for me to race strong to the finish. Running Boston Marathon this perfect April day, nothing, not
even my injured knee, could stop my perseverance to that ultimate reward of a Boston Marathon finisher’s medal. The
mile markers seemed to go by in good time. Wow, I had just passed the 24 mile mark! As I blissfully strode on,
envisioning my eminently ecstatic finish at Copley Square… someone flipped a switch.
The marathon official was saying to get off the course, the race is
stopped; the finish line is shut down. None of what he was saying
made any sense as I was still running toward the finish in my mind,
but he said, “You have to go down the side street, and stay off the
course, do not go toward downtown.” I was agitated, angry and
belligerent and did not want to go down a side street, where would I
go? He did not know, but as unmarked SUVs and emergency
vehicles sped by, he informed me of a bomb that went off at the
finish line. Wandering in a group of disoriented runners on a side
street at Coolidge Square for half an hour, we were directed to go
back up the course to a medical tent. Limping the half mile back, I
was getting cold and stiff so another runner gave me her space blanket, while another fellow gave me some water and an
apple. Yet another passerby lent me her smart phone, which was not so smart, as all cell signals had been shut down due
to the bombing. Near the medical tent was a synagogue that opened the doors for stranded runners. The inscription over the doors reads, “House of prayer for all people”, so I painfully climbed the twelve steps to enter Temple Ohabei Shalom.
The hallway entry area was a surreal scene of many runners wrapped in shiny space blankets lying, sitting or aimlessly wandering the reserved hallways of this Byzantine Revival style temple. A fellow came around handing out additional
space blankets, since the hallway was cool with the double doors open. A concerned young woman on staff named Ariana, I believe, asked me how she could help. “Do you have a restroom?” Yes, they did, and it was a good one, but
downstairs. Another runner was just coming out and warned me not to slip as he had spilled his Gatorade. The downstairs
was warmer, and more runners were lined up sitting on the heater that ran along the wall. A neighborhood woman came in
with a pot of coffee and started giving cups to everyone. Some frat brothers from BU were trying to hail a cab to
Hopkinton for me, as all other public transportation was stopped. Many cabs sped by, they were busy and would not stop.
Few of the maybe 200 runners knew how they would get back to their lodging, but after about 90 minutes a bus arrived to
take runners to Boston Common. A stranded runner from Orlando spotted me, as we are both in Marathonfest, our local running group. Jim was taking the bus, but was concerned that I had no cash, so he lent me twenty. The bus did not help me, as I was staying in Hopkinton at a friend’s townhouse, 26 miles west of Boston. Angie, my wife, was in Hopkinton and had watched the race and bombing on TV. The lady bus driver let me use her service restored cell phone to let my wife know I was alright and trying to find a ride back. Another Temple staffer, Becca, a young woman on a mission, whirled up and down the hallways trying to help the many runners ASAP. Another started opening boxes of cereal that was part of their food pantry for the needy. Soon, others brought in pans of pasta. A runner was in distress and some were helping with his medical condition, as a gurney was brought in. My body and mind were winding down to exhaustion; a lady brought me a chair, so I just sat there listlessly, while healers and helpers cared for us strangers.
By this time, the majority of stranded runners had received rides.
Then I saw a tall, concerned looking man appear at the entrance,
immediately asking what he could do to help. He headed down the
hallway, straight to where I was sitting, introduced himself as Larry,
a Temple member, and asked how he could help me. I told him I was
trying to figure out how to get a ride to Hopkinton where my wife
and I were staying. He said he would take me right away and I
should call my wife and tell her I had a ride. Ariana, took me to her
office phones to call long distance to let Angie know someone had
offered to drive me. Larry checked to see if other runners were trying
to go west, and we were off. I did not eat the food that had just been
brought in. Since it was dinner time, Larry said he would first take me to his house to get me some warm clothes and feed me. Arriving at his home, he introduced me to his wife, Denise. She gave me a hug and asked what I wanted to eat and drink, while Larry found warm up pants and hoody for me. Denise made me a delicious chicken sandwich, with homemade challah bread, a special treat I had never tasted. As Larry drove the 40 minute drive to Hopkinton we really got to know each other, as Larry had a good talent for opening conversation. I told him about my family, marathons I’ve run, about my company I sold before retiring. He told me about his family, his new grandchild, his profession, his Cantor who ran Boston Marathon and how much he enjoys watching every year. As we discussed our family life, I told him of my son, Tim, who died of complications from leukemia at 18, and how I got into marathons when I joined Team in Training to fund- raise for Leukemia Lymphoma Society in memory of Tim. Though he died 16 years ago, Tim is with me as I run the long miles to finish the race. Larry told me that one of his sons was a pediatric oncologist and was doing great work in saving lives. Many of the runners fund-raise for Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston. As Larry dropped me off at the closed security gate, I told him I hoped to be back next year and he urged me to be sure to come and see him. Jokingly pulling the borrowed hoody over my head, I headed to the townhouse.
Three days later Angie and I were back home in Apopka watching the Interfaith Service for Healing Boston on CNN live from Cathedral of the Holy Cross. As speakers from all religions, and government leaders, including Pres. Obama, gave moving messages I had to get the tissues.
PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) had caught up with me. Many conflicted, distressing and sad thoughts built up as I listened to the childrens’ choir and YoYo Ma. I was overcome with grief. I was grieving Tim’s death from cancer and the
Boston Marathon bombing tragedy and how evil tries to destroy our goodness. But a hopeful speaker, Rev. Robert Miranda said, “God has not forsaken Boston. God has not forsaken our nation. He merely weaves a beautiful, bright
tapestry of goodness that includes a few dark strands”. This bright, beautiful tapestry is the community of runners, the volunteers, the fans, friends, our civic leaders, spiritual leaders, families, including church families, those who prayed, those who helped stranded runners, first responders to the bombing, all are part of the larger community. We belong to each other. I experienced such belonging, along with happiness and gratitude. I am thankful for being in this community,
this one nation, under God.
Running is learning through life lessons. Patriots Day and Boston Marathon gave lessons in civics, spirituality, good, evil, and of course running. The next time someone asks how I can run 26.2 miles, my pat answer will be: Community.