2013 was the second time I had the privilege of running and finishing the Boston Marathon. I had just PRed (gotten a personal record) for the second year in a row, and was excited to meet up with friends to start the celebrations downtown. It was then when we heard. I was walking back to the hotel with a friend and fellow runner when he got a call. With a strange look on his face he looked at me and said “there was a loud explosion near Copley Square. They think a pipe burst or it was gun shots or something, but they said don’t come back this way.”
We were confused. Really confused. We kept walking when a random person approached us on the street. “Did you run the Boston Marathon?” he asked. I was ready for the congratulatory remarks (love those Bostonians) but instead he said “I just heard from people at the finish that bombs went off.”
By the time we got back to our hotel, less than a mile walk from the finish, runners and spectators alike were gathered around the TV in the lobby. There were looks of disbelief and shock across the room. No one knew what was going on. Were these terror attacks? Was it a pipe burst? Should we go outside or stay inside? I felt frozen in place. People began to rush towards the window of the hotel lobby as they thought they heard another explosion, and I started to cry. Without hesitation, my friend and I made the decision to get in our car and leave Boston as fast as we could. No post-run food. No celebrations. No beers. Only the singular mindset of wanting to feel safe again.
Over the next few days, I had a hard time coping with the feeling that these attacks had taken something away from me. I couldn’t help but feel that my major accomplishment, my personal victory, it was nothing compared to what those at the finish line endured. I grieved for all of those who had lost lives and limbs, and I felt like it was selfish to grieve for my own loss as it was difficult to articulate what exactly that loss was.
I have thought a lot about that day over the past year. I’ve accepted that it’s okay that I, and every runner out there, grieve for the loss of the simplistic purity of the Boston Marathon. But us runners -- we will never let that one day define a race of that magnitude. Without a doubt, we have to remain the champions of running. That’s what the Boston Marathon is about. We have to not shy away from these large events that have made the sport of distance running popular. The large events that have made it great.
I could not be more excited and feel more honored to return to the Boston Marathon again for the 2014 race. So what if my training hasn’t been ideal this time around? Simply put, being able to step foot on the starting line in Hopkinton makes my return triumphant. Running is ours again, Boston is ours again. Runners will never stop thinking of the Boston Marathon as the pinnacle of marathon running, made pointedly clear by the largest number of starters in the history of the race this year. When I ask all of my friends and family to come out and support not only me, but also the marathon, I let them know that there is no place like Boston on Marathon Monday. No place at all.
— Written by Jenna Bernstein, guest Fitbie contributor