Thursday, April 18, 2013

Marathon Monday

My day started at 4 a.m. in Houston. I had a long travel day ahead. I was excited and so eager to see my family.  Five days away is a long time for this Mom.  So I hopped in the car and battled the insane I-45 towards Hobby a'port.  Time to go home!!! 
A Happy feeling indeed to start the day. 

It was also Marathon day! The Boston Marathon!! TriMoxie had a handful of athletes running, I knew of a bunch of other Maine friends and of course, there were many I didn't even realize were there. 

I love Boston. I went to Graduation school there in the 90s and ran Boston myself back in '95. It was just my 2nd marathon! I've ran many more since then and while I've qualified, I've never gone back. I know I will... now I know that even more. 

I sat in the airport looking at the blue and orange plane I was to board. I sent a few encouraging notes to my friend that I coach reminding her to breath deeply and think positively. 

Then... I hopped on the plane. 

I spent the first layover chatting briefly with a few people: 

"I saw Marisa, she looks great!"

"Mile 16!"

"Sheri Piers 2:39!"
"Shalane was first American, 4th overall. One minute ahead of Kara (6th)."
"Joan Samuelson:2:50!!!!"

"Incredible! She must be so happy! Are you home?"

Now, I stop texting my friend, my sister in law, a woman I coach who is watching another friend racing... and I board the Southwest flight in Chicago. En route to Boston."  

Flight attendant to me: "Have you ran the Boston Marathon before? I saw your bag." ( carrying Ironman backpack for my carry on.. )

Yes, I have. Years ago. I have a lot of friends running today and a few people we coach.  I heard Joanie Benoit ran a 2:50!! Amazing.  I think it's perfect weather today.   
and we talked... on and on.... 

Lucky for an uneventful and timely flight, we landed at Logan. I was hoping to catch the 4:30 bus back to Maine but it was tight. I was in a hurry and at least wanted to grab my suitcase and bike box to be sure to hop on the 5:30 coach.  I wasn't sure how long it took it was  time to hustle. Although I was anxious to talk to my family and hear the results of the racers, I held back on digging through my purse for the phone and instead, hurried to the baggage claim area. 

We bags yet... .... so I dropped my gear and turned on the phone. 

First, I was confused. The messages didn't make sense.... 

Then, and again now as I type, my heart raced and a lump grew in my throat. 

The phone buzzed and messages like this popped through:

"What happened at the Boston marathon?? .... there were explosions at the finish??" 

from another:
"Explosion at Boston finish line!!" 

what does he mean? Explosion...? I typed back,"What??" It didn't go through. 

"Where are you?" from my Dad... 

I remained a bit confused. Other passengers around me started getting on their phones.  I looked around and listened to others...... their faces and reactions confirmed it. Something was seriously wrong. 
I heard, "the city is shut down.. we're not going anywhere..." 

Then another text, "Two bombs went off!!! Emergency!!! I"m safe"

deep breath. ok... she's ok. what the hell is going on??? 


At this point, it started to hit me. I started to process just how many people I knew down there... and all the people I knew that Could be there....

I started texting back... but nothing would go through.  

I reread the note from my sister in law and started to respond to her.... and it wasn't until that moment that I realized, Hey, I am IN Boston! I 'm in the airport..... unease set over me. 

Meanwhile.... where the hell is my luggage!?? The crowd around me had cleared. The carousel had stopped moving. That was it. My gear was not there. No bike. Perfect.... I needed to leave. It was time to get home. Now, more than ever. 

I was in a state of panic for so many reasons.  I called Mark.... I told him about the bombs and the luggage and nearly broke down. He knew. He was with the kids and was being careful about expressing fear to them.... "get on the bus. You'll get your stuff... "

And more from Dad, "Don't worry.... give them your tags. Talk to the baggage claim Get on the bus!! Call from the bus. " 

I filed my claim and found my way outside to wait.  That's when it all started to sink in. 

The airport was becoming tense.  I watched FBI agents flow inside, bomb sniffing dogs were everywhere, police cars.... more and more and more of them.  Bus after  bus arrived. But not mine. Tears were in my eyes and I felt helpless.  

Thoughts of the race and the scene overwhelmed me. I was sick to my stomach. 

To me, this wasn't just something that happened to other people. It wasn't just something that made me feel empathy and sadness for others. This was happening, to us. This was so so close. These were 'my people.' 
If you read my blog, you have heard me boast about the unparalleled support I have and have had, all my life. 
I always, and I mean Always, have amazing support at my finish lines.  When I ran Boston in 1995, my Mom, Dad, and future husband Mark, were all right there. Right in that spot. When I finished Lake Placid Ironman in 2011, they were all there. My Mom, Dad, brother, husband, and... my three children.  They were there for me. If I wasn't there, they wouldn't have been there. There have been many many big races like that. Chicago, Kona, and so on.... 

The spectators were hurt on Monday. The runners were scared and their moments were stolen, but the supporters were killed and injured. There are no words. We are so sorry. 

I stood on the curb trying to process that. I stood there, crying on and off, jumping at every siren, and looking for the corners to hide in if I needed to. I prayed that the  bus reading PORTLAND would come around that corner. It was late. I waited a long time.  

Could I race again? Could I bring my family? If so, should I tell them to watch from a random middle of the course spot and skip the finish?
The beloved finish line... I've always savored that moment. Now... 

I feel guilt, and I wasn't even there. I feel responsibility. I am one of those runners. I am one of those people who travels to crazy places and enters big events for the euphoria & pride it brings. I am one of the athletes that asks her family to come watch. I have them with me, everywhere I go. I have always known that I was taking risks,but I was taking it.   I have never ever, not once,worried about my family's safety while they were there for me. I have considered their  boredom and their fatigue. Hey, even their hunger as I spent 10+ hours out on the course. Moms worry about their kids being hungry. I have never feared they would be attacked and killed. 

The shock and fear and sadness are real. The anger is building. Those emotions aren't something the psychologists just haphazardly write on the paper... they are real. 
I wasn't even there.... and yet I was.... 
My appetite is slowly coming back. I am able to watch the news without too much trouble now. And, I know I will race again. Hell yeah.... 

But, where will the kids, Mark and my parents be? Not sure yet. I am not ready for that one yet.  

We run to feel good. We run to achieve goals and conquer challenges. We run to stay healthy. Perhaps we can inspire and motivate.  

But we don't run to put others in danger. And that is what it felt like that day. 
Athlete's guilt.... that's what I have. From afar. Yet, right up close. 

This act of terror wasn't my fault. Of course. It was the action of another evil soul roaming our earth. We do all need to over power that evil and I can see the actions of the Boston community and the country as a whole are doing that... 

But it will take time for many of us to process this one. 


Michelle Simmons said...

When i saw the video clips of the suspects carrying their backpacks, I found myself feeling incredibly angry... Burning anger to my core... I think we all share some very similar emotions about this one. And I've never even stepped foot in Boston!

Jen said...

I know how you feel Ange. I was racing Monday and I've never been so glad to be slow. My parents told me they would be at mile 25 with the rest of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge support crew or the finish line. Heard about the events on course around mile 23 before they stopped those of us further out and kept telling myself they'd be at mile 25, then they weren't. And then the cops wouldn't let me go find them and no cell service. Scariest 1/2 hour of my life. Thankfully they were just making there way over there but others weren't so lucky. We will be back but I think I'll make sure my parents and husband are in Newton.