I had drafted a blog entry last year after the race that I never published. I am here a year later finally having completed it and having added to it.
I had run over 500 miles since the first of the year.
Last year, I had done more pull-ups, push-ups, curls, shoulder raises, and other core exercises than I had ever done before.
I had done hill workouts on the street and on a treadmill; I had done speed workouts out on my street, on the track and on the treadmill; I had done tempo runs; I had done race pace runs; I had done my long distance runs; I had done my 3/1 runs– where I do a chill pace for 3/4, then turn it up for the last quarter for up to two hours.
I had exhausted my body for four plus months in anticipation of an awesome finish at the Boston Marathon.
However, nothing could have prepared me for what happened on Monday, April 15, 2013– both on the course, and the events that transpired after I finished.
For the month or so prior to the race, sleeping through the night had become difficult. I am not sure what it was. It may have been my mind, my body, perhaps both. It may have been the excitement of knowing I would be competing in the most prestigious race in the world, held annually in the great city of Boston, Massachusetts on their Patriots’ Day holiday. At this point, it does not really matter what it was, but I was not sleeping well, and I was terribly excited for the time to pass.
Eventually it was Friday, the 12th of April, and I was to get packed and get everything ready for the early departure the next morning. We left Cleveland on Saturday morning, and with a quick stop in Newark, we arrived in Boston at lunchtime. We took the appropriate trains to get to where we were staying, with an awesomely hospitable new friend in Jamaica Plain. As we exited the train station, I was introduced to Will and he took us up the narrow, winding streets to his third floor “apartment.”
We had a quick lunch, and saw that it was still early enough to head downtown for the Marathon expo. So, Christina and I went to Hynes Convention Center to grab my bib and a couple hundred dollars in wicked-sweet marathon loot. Eventually, my mother and sister caught up with us and we found everything we needed and headed for some genuine clam chowda.
We awoke Sunday knowing that we could take it easy, since the expo fun was done. Christina and I headed to the Prudential Center to try to find a cap because it was a little chilly and we were planning to enjoy a Duck Tour later on. The mall in downtown Boston was packed with the regular crowd, plus the runners all enjoying a beautiful day of commerce in the city. There were Boston marathon jackets/hoodies/t-shirts/hats being worn by everyone around.
Later, we enjoyed the Duck Tour hosted by MacIn Quack, a Boston transplanted Scotsman. He showed us the city, gave us a historical narrative, and took us in the water for another, more unique, view of the city.
Eventually we made our way to the Little Italy chunk of the city and found a restaurant that supplied the much-needed fuel for the following day. Then, it was bedtime.
Surprisingly, I fell asleep Sunday night and slept for several hours without a glass of wine or a beer. I woke, threw on my race garb, and jumped on the train. Several months prior, I had reserved my spot on a bus that would take me to the start. The bus left from MIT. Not knowing the city terribly well, I barely made it to said bus before departure.
I am incredibly grateful that I made it onto the bus because I caught up with a racing friend, Frank, and he introduced me to the “other Ryan,” and we chatted it up the whole way until the bus parked a little ways from the race start.
It is impossible to describe the race start for the Boston Marathon without seeing it. Suffice it to say that to find a port-a-potty without a half hour line is impossible. So, seeing 30 men urinating outside the same building because there were plenty of trees in the front is not unlikely. Then there is a good walk among thousands of very fit, jittery, energetic people to a town not any bigger than a small suburb of Cleveland. There you see the sign:
A wave of absolute Greatness sweeps over you. You stand on or near the same place as some of the greatest runners the world has ever bore witness to. It’s pretty overwhelming. I could not help but try and take it all in.
A short while later, many of the participants began removing their throwaways as we heard the wheelchair athletes began their race. Then, at 10:00 AM, the elite field took off, among them Americans Shalane Flanagan and Jason Hartmann, who would each reach the finish line on Boylston Street in fourth place in their respective genders. Then wave one began. I was in wave one.
The Boston Marathon course is incredibly challenging. There are many blogs and other outlets that will tell you about the rigors of the course. I finished the first half of the race in 1:33:56 and was staying on target of where I wanted to be. Side note: The wall of noise in Wellesley is unlike anything you will every experience in your life unless you run this course. I wanted to go out slow and save enough for the incredible uphills that were yet to arise (pun very much intended). Around mile 16, my legs began to cramp and the rest of the race was a run/walk. I ran as far up each hill as I could possibly go, and walked for a little while, before enough came back in the legs that I could commence running again. My muscles were locking up everywhere. My calves, hamstrings, quads, even my hip flexors were lacking hydration and sodium. They began to lock up at the slightest effort. I somehow struggled through the remainder of the race. When I reached the last few turns and saw the mass of spectators, I decided that I would run the last stretch, no matter how much it hurt. My mother has a video of my final efforts “running” to the beautiful royal blue and yellow Finish Line of the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, and it is far from beautiful. My stride is short, broken, awkward and uncomfortable, but I finished. This was around 1:40 PM EST. Luckily, my family who attended the race, left their spot on the fence to meet me at the “Family Meeting Area.”
I struggled through the finish area, walking very gingerly around a corner to where my gear check bag would be found. I remained there for a long while. It was a struggle to lift my legs up to get my warm-up pants on and cover my goosebumps. Eventually, I was able to throw some warm clothes on and walk to the meeting area where I met my fiance, my mother, and my sister. We found the nearest train station and headed back to the apartment in Jamaica Plain.
The walk took much longer than the previous attempts, but eventually we made our way up the hill and I prepared for a shower. My mother and sister ventured to a nearby ice cream establishment while I got in the shower to wash off the sweat and Gatorade that had adhered to my body. Shortly thereafter, the bathroom door was opened and Christina, my fiance, informed me that there was a terrible incident down at the marathon finish.
The first bomb went off just over an hour after I had crossed the finish line, at 2:49 PM. The second bomb a little after that. The city of Boston went from happy and proud to terrified and injured.
Three were killed: Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu. May they all rest peacefully. 264 others were injured, including hearing loss and/or severed limbs. Some details can be found here: http://abcnews.go.com/US/fullpage/boston-marathon-bombing-victims-people-affected-23243060
This is the first time where I can honestly say that I have thought about a day every single day since. I think about how if I had given in to the injuries I’d had nagging me leading up to and during the race, or if I had some medical team pull me off the course forcing me to stop, or if I had gotten dehydrated and forced to stop, or if there was any reason that I had been unable to cross the finish line at the time that I had, that my family may have made up a portion of the bombing statistics. My mother, my sister, and the future Mrs. H., were all standing on the bombed side of the street, not much more than an hour before it happened. When they saw me shuffle past, they screamed for me and I did not hear them, did not see their signs, but they left immediately. I am also incredibly pleased to say that Frank, his family and friends who attended, Ryan, and his family who attended, all made it away from the finish area unscathed.
The part of town we were staying in is where the Samuel Adams Brewery is located, and we paid a much needed visit. The donations they receive usually go to help with different charities, but that day they were giving to the organization that was going to help the victims and families of the victims.
The city of Boston had changed overnight. We revisited the same mall the day after the race, and it was nearly empty. Most of the businesses there were closed, and since one of the exits opened to the street where the finish area was, some of the mall was off-limits to civilians. There were National Guard and SWAT team police officers at every train station with automatic weapons and bomb sniffing dogs in tow.
Needless to say, I am glad they found who committed the cowardly acts, and pardon me for saying it, but I hope the suspect who was killed at least suffered before he perished. I will not write their names.
For Sean Collier, who was killed while the bombers were attempting to flee the city of Boston, and probably the country, may he also rest peacefully.
I feel as if Shalane has a much better chance at victory this year, and I hope I am not the only one who will be rooting for her on Monday.
As I write this, it is almost EXACTLY a year since the events in Boston took place. I still get teary-eyed thinking of everything that happened surrounding the marathon last year. I am selfishly glad that I ran fast enough so that my story is hardly an interesting one. I wear my Boston Marathon 2013 jacket as often as I can. I wear my “Boston Strong” wristband every day, hoping people ask me about it. I care not for the attention, but want everyone else to remember.
This year’s Boston Marathon is six days away. I have a few friends running and I wish them the best of luck. I am jealous and I wish I could be there again. I would wave to each and every spectator and try to thank them just for being there. I would also try to run a much better race than I was able to a year ago.
If we get nothing else from what happened at this great race one year ago, care for the person next to you, no matter your differences.
I apologize for my sudden shifts in thought. I am no writer.