By Kate Plourd
When the Boston Athletic Association announced it would issue a limited number of invitational entries to people profoundly impacted by the marathon bombings, I was overcome with emotion. To be fair, I get overcome with emotion at almost every reference to the Boston Marathon these days. But the BAA’s move to honor those who want to run a marathon to help heal from the pain of April 15 tugged at this runner’s heart.
I completed the Boston Marathon this year, about 20 minutes before the bombs went off. As I approached the Boston city line that day, I ironically thought to myself for the first time since I had moved here “Boston you’re my home.” I could never imagine that the community I’ve been part of for seven years would be ripped apart by tragedy. I was sipping soup broth in the Berkley Street medical tent—exhausted and drained, and suffering from minor salt depletion—when the bombs went off. We heard them from the medical tent. We were all confused and scared. Then the medical staff made announcements: “Explosions at the finish line. Casualties. Dismemberments. Be prepared to treat the victims.” It became clear that my minor running-induced injury was small compared to what the medical staff was about face. It was time to go. I didn’t have my phone to get in touch with my fiancé and friends—all who were either running behind me or watching somewhere near the finish line. So the next hour wandering and waiting at our loosely defined meeting spot was excruciating. Thankfully, we were safely reunited. As so many other runners and Bostonians know all too well, the next few weeks were heartbreaking as we learned more and more about what happened and the aftermath. At times, I felt guilty for being so sad and I still feel guilty knowing that three people died and hundreds were injured because they were out there to support runners like me. I know I’m not alone in saying this, but not a day goes by that I don’t think of those who were lost, injured, or profoundly affected.
I submitted my 250 words to the BAA about how I was impacted, how the feelings of anger, guilt and heartbreak surface almost everyday. But what I couldn’t include in the short word limit was how I have found inspiration from the strength and resolve of the community and runners in the past seven months.
At mile 24 that day I told myself I that was done running Boston. I was nauseated, exhausted and my body did not want to go on. “Boston was just too hard of a race,” I thought. I should just find easier, less intense marathons to run. Weeks after the Boston Marathon, I signed up to run a fall marathon. I ran it this October and have never felt so thankful to be able to be running a marathon. I thanked spectators for being out there. I enjoyed the scenery. I cried through the last two miles and even though I didn’t PR or meet my goal, I had never been more elated and thrilled to finish a race. In those last few miles when again, I felt like I wanted to quit, I drew motivation by thinking of those who can’t run today.
The Boston Marathon was traumatic for everyone who was there or had someone they loved killed, injured, or affected. It has impacted all Bostonians and runners, deeply. But I hope others too find the inspiration as well, from the stories of the heroic first responders and helpful bystanders who saved lives that day. And from the resilient athletes like Lee Ann Yanni, who ran the Chicago Marathon just five months after being seriously injured on Boylston Street, and Erin Hurley, who continues to run races after her boyfriend lost both legs as he waited to watch her on Boylston Street. Whether we’re inspired to run a marathon or not, we’ve all learned how to keep running. I’m proud to say that the BAA has decided to give me another chance, by accepting my application for the 2014 Boston Marathon. Fueled by a tumultuous year in running, I can’t wait to finish that race.
Kate is a public relations professional in Boston and an avid marathon runner.