Jason is founder and CEO of RunKeeper. He ran the Boston Marathon last Monday.
By Jason Jacobs
I wasn’t planning on running the Boston Marathon this year. As the CEO of a scaling startup and the father of a one-year old son, I am lucky I have time to eat lunch every day, let alone log the miles required to train properly for a marathon. But when a number opened up and I was invited to run on behalf of Camp Interactive, I couldn’t resist. I was born and raised in Boston and grew up watching the Boston Marathon every year with my family, and this race has always had a special place in my heart.
Training was grueling, to say the least. My wife Ali works full-time, and often has morning events where she has to be out the door very early. This meant that, some days, I would be banging out long runs and needed to be home by 6:30am, which meant getting up at 4:30am or earlier. Plus, my long runs fall on Sundays, and I had a streak this winter where 3 long runs in a row all occurred during major blizzards.
The first half of my training plan went OK, but the wheels started coming off the car on the second half. I was under-rested, under-nourished, over-caffeinated, and emotionally and physically drained. I toughed it out though, and while I didn’t go into the race in tip-top physical shape, at least I went in without any nagging physical injuries like in previous years.
I started out the race on fire. During my training runs I trained at a pace just under 9 minute miles, but I did the first half of the race at a sub-7 minute mile pace. WAY too fast to start out, which I knew at the time, but for some reason I didn’t care. During the first part of the race I was tweeting, taking photos, texting my wife Ali, and generally having fun. At around mile 13 or mile 14, I started getting tired (shocking, I know). I slowed the pace to 8-minute miles for the next several miles, which is probably where I should have been from the beginning. By mile 18 or 19, I was doing a mix of walking/running for the rest of the race.
I felt like crap for these last several miles. I was pissed at myself for not doing the proper training. I was pissed at myself for going out of the gates WAY too fast, and I felt like I didn’t deserve all of the cheers of the incredible fans on the sidelines. I wanted so badly to pick up the pace and truck it out, but I was having real trouble finding the internal strength to do so. My legs had nothing left in them.
I knew the RunKeeper team was watching from Kenmore Square, so I made sure to gear up and be in full running stride as I went past them, and kept running as I headed into the final mile of the race. Ali texted a pic of her and my son at the finish line, and asked me to text when I was getting close. I texted about two blocks before I hit Boylston St to let her know to expect me at the finish line very soon. I then turned down Hereford and made the final turn onto Boylston to head towards the finish line.
As I ran down Boylston St, I got about two blocks when I saw the first explosion at the finish line. I heard the police office in front of me ask another officer what that was, which I knew wasn’t a good sign. About 15 seconds later the second bomb went off, this one only about half a block away from where I was standing. At this point, everyone panicked, and it started to sink in what was actually happening here.
I had no idea if my wife and son at the finish line were OK. I also had no idea if those were the only two bombs, or if several more were going to go off soon after. I didn’t know how many people were injured, the severity of their injuries, I just knew that everyone needed to get out of the area as soon as humanly possible. At this point, I was two to three blocks from the finish line, but the police officers were not letting anyone move forward. I was right next to the Prudential Mall, so I figured I’d head through the mall to try to get closer to the finish line and reunited with my wife and son.
I staggered through the mall, and along the way stopped at our nearby apartment to see if my wife and son were waiting for me in the lobby. They were not. Meanwhile, I kept trying Ali’s cell incessantly, but every call went to voicemail. Finally, the phone rang and it was her calling—she was OK. She and her friends had run to an apartment a mile or so away. I started crying immediately, so thankful and relieved that they were OK. I staggered the mile walk to her friend’s apartment building, the whole time reflecting on the gravity of what had just occurred.
I got there and we hung there for several hours, fielding calls from tons of friends and loved ones, and checking on others who we had not heard from yet that were at the race. Meanwhile, our apartment building was evacuated, so my parents came to get us and we spent the night with them.
Now, a week later, our apartment building is still a crime scene. Boylston St is like a movie set—still set up exactly how it was on race day. The wounds are still fresh, and we’ve found it difficult to move on with daily life. This race that I grew up loving turned into a horrific event, and our neighborhood and home are right in the epicenter of where it all went down. I am very thankful to be alive and that my family is safe, but at the same time, can’t help but feel like things are forever different now.
Before the bombs went off, I was a broken man—mentally and physically exhausted. Now I am a broken man that is incredibly lucky to have his family in one piece. We also had several close calls on the RunKeeper team, and thankfully, everyone is OK. I am going to take some time off from running and recharge the batteries. I hope I can find it in me to run Boston next year, but it is hard for me to even think about at the moment.
If you have thoughts and stories to share on how you are processing through this tragedy, feel free to share them with us, in the comments below, or via e-mail.