The 2013 Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon 2013At 3:55pm yesterday I cried.

I was getting ready for a Google Hangout back to my office with my partners and I noticed something about an explosion at the Boston Marathon on twitter. I did a quick scan of Twitter, clicked through to a few links, and realized a bomb had gone off near the finish line.

I went blank – just stared at my computer screen – and then started crying. I called Amy – she hadn’t heard about it yet and told her what had happened. I collected myself and called in to my Hangout. My partners were all shaken also – Seth lived in Boston for many years, Ryan has done several marathons, and Jason just did his first marathon last year in Detroit.

During our Hangout I sent some emails out to friends in Boston. Four close friends were on the third floor of the building above the first explosion. They were ok – but shocked and very shaken up. Emails continued to flow with me checking in on people and people checking in on me since they knew I was a marathoner and on the east coast.

My emotion shifted from sadness, to a wave of being horrified, to temporary anger, back to a very deep sadness. At the NJ Tech Meetup, before I started talking I asked for a moment of silence to recognize the people who were at the Boston Marathon, especially those who were injured. I can’t remember exactly what I said – I just know that I teared up again before my talk.

On my way back to Manhattan, Amy and I talked. We were both incredibly sad. And lonely – she’s home and I’m in NY. She was supposed to go to Boston yesterday for a Wellesley board meeting – she decided not to go because of some stuff going on. She would have stayed at the Mandarin Oriental, just down the block from the explosion. It’s all too close for comfort.

Lying in bed, I couldn’t fall asleep. I tossed and turned until 1am. I kept thinking about being in NY on 9/11, about running the Boston Marathon, about the bike accident I had in September where a turn of the wheel a different direction would have meant lights out for me. It was some combination of PTSD, sadness, obsessions, and contemplation of mortality. I finally fell asleep.

This morning on my run with Reece Pacheco we talked about it a little more. I haven’t even begun to really process this. Brent Hill sent out a tweet to me and a bunch of friends to commit to running Boston in 2014. I’m in.

I just contributed to the Boston Tech Communities fundraiser for the Boston Marathon victims. All proceeds will be donated completely to programs working with victims of the attacks including Red Cross, Children’s Hospital, and others.

  • I too cried, Brad. Thank you for writing such an amazing post.

    • I hope you – and all your Boston friends – are safe.

  • I’m feeling that same mix of sadness + anger that I felt after 9/11.

  • Your decision to run BM14 is the reaction that I hope people across the country make en masse. If not BM14, something local – something to demonstrate that we as Americans and as human beings will not allow fear and terror to control our lives. I have never ran a marathon, but I am making the same commitment for 2014 to run BM14. Thank you for the inspiration and demonstrated fortitude.

    • Thx. It was impulsive but I agree it’s powerful. And the Boston marathon is a special American institution.

  • johnfein

    Thanks for the heartfelt post Brad. Though I wasn’t there, I was born and raised in Brookline and watching the marathon was an annual tradition for my family and friends just like its been for thousands of others. It was a staple of my childhood, always brimming with good vibes and that purity that come from untainted joy. Though I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the victims and their loved ones, on a personal level I’m fighting to keep my positive memories intact. Like others with ties to Boston, yesterday afternoon was spent polling friends and family to ensure their safety – an exercise filled with worry and dread. (Several close calls but they’re all okay.) My wife and I met in Coolidge Corner a block from Beacon St., and gave our son the middle name Boston when he was born 10 years ago. The emotions are still raw but I hope to process them in the days and weeks ahead.

    It seems there aren’t many pure joyful things left these days, and we must protect those that still exist.

    • Well said. Sending you good karma.

  • The Boston Marathon is the premier running event for runners around the world. When I ran the 100th as a fairly recent “joiner” to the distance running community I had no idea. Since then I’ve made many friends who have made this race their goal and have spent years and years working to qualify. 3 of those friends ran yesterday – one of whom achieved a PR the other two 1/2 mi. from the finish when the explosion went off. What has captured my attention more than anything is how humans are capable of so much anger they will take such a momentous occasion for so many and turn it so quickly into tragedy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Brad.

    • So sad for your friends – I had a friend who was within a mile of finishing also. Just so horrifying.

  • Thanks for your kind words Brad. I have many former co-workers who work in the building right where the second explosion occurred. Thankfully they have a tradition of a holiday for Marathon day and were all safely elsewhere. It is sad and disconcerting when it hits so close to home.

    • Glad your former co-workers are safe.

  • Dan Gould
    • Awesome Dan. Count on it! Can’t wait to see how your kids have grown up.

  • Thanks for sharing. Seeing all the pictures and watching all the video, a new angle, a new set of horrified looks on people’s faces as they experienced the terror was really awful, but Brad, what I know will happen the next time I am there, on Boylston Street, is what will also hurt. Boylston street is the last .2 of the 26.2 and this is what makes it special on marathon day. Having run the route in from Boston twice, the experience has given me several of the most memorable experiences of my life, after marriage and kids of course, but here is what Boylston street has meant to me up until yesterday. You toe the line in Hopkinton and run east past Wellesley and and a wall of screaming enthusiasm, struggle by not one but three heartbreaking hills into Boston. As you pass through Kenmore Square you begin to feel that something big is just ahead. Then it hits you. Turn right on Hereford Street, then left on to Boylston. It’s at that moment it hits you. The sea of people, the cheering and the euphoric feeling you have as you suddenly realize you can see the finish. It kind of sneaks up on you because Hereford is narrow and Boylston is wide and welcoming. The emotion of the moment is huge and it surrounds you like all the people on either side of you lifting you up and propelling you down the last .2 mi. to the Public Library and the finish line.This moment is the culmination of all of the individual effort you have made to prepare and push yourself to achieve something that you perhaps thought you could never do. It’s a truly unique experience, one that I tell my kids is one of the best things I like about being in Boston on Boylston street.

    Until yesterday.

    • You made me tear up again. I have always loved that stretch of Boylston street.

  • Jeffrey Hartmann

    I was driving to pick up my son from school when I heard about this on NPR. I’ve been in a state of shock and sadness as well. Thank you Brad for shining a light on this, I think this hit too close to home for many people.

    One of my good friends and two of my siblings are running the Memorial marathon here next weekend. The Memorial marathon in OKC is to commemorate the lives lost in the April 19th bombing in 1995. My father was supposed to be at the courthouse across the street from the Murrow building that morning, but the universe conspired to make him late to court (which just never happens, I feel so lucky.) I was jolted awake from a nap in class (I had spent the night before talking to my girlfriend till 3 am) by a very loud sound. What followed that day was surreal as I learned more about what had happened. We lost a few people in our church, and I was an altar boy in their funerals. A man I work with now lost his wife, and it was a horrible shock to our community here.

    To think that what happened in Boston could happen here or anywhere frankly, and the moment I heard it my thoughts went back 18 years and brought up some very raw emotions. I was concerned for people who have family in Boston, my cousins were there with their mother in the hospital but thankfully are safe. I worried about my sister, my brother, and my friend who will be running the Memorial. It is all so very hard to process for me half a world away, I can only imagine what people on the ground at the Boston marathon must have felt.

    I hope that everyone in your circle of friends who were affected by this are well, and know that we all grieve the senseless violence that just happened to our fellow men in Boston. Let lady justice bring swift judgement on those responsible, and may we never forget those who have died or were injured by their hands.

    • Powerful. I was in Oklahoma City last fall and was talking to friends about this today.

      • I was born in Oklahoma City and spent a lot of good time there in the summers in the 50s and early 60s visiting my grandparents. That bombing is never very far away from my thoughts even now.
        Looks like they very well may catch up with the Boston bombers fairly rapidly at this point.

    • I think about that OKC bombing all the time – especially after tragedies like this one. For some reason, I didn’t feel the pain of that one ( my human failing – I had to grow up I guess ), and I feel a bit of guilt about that all the time. I wrote a little bit about that the other day on my blog.

      Reading your personal story, and how similar it is to my 911 experience, brings tears to my eyes – sadness for some, and joy for people like you who feel lucky to have narrowly avoided tragedy.

  • Thanks for sharing and same mixed feelings. I ran my first Boston Marathon 10 years ago and lived 4 blocks from the explosion in a “former life”. Some of my favorite race memories are carrying a friend’s young child down Boylston from the turn at Hereford so she could cross the finish line with him (thankfully there was a little gas left in the tank). Or sharing the excitement of the entire weekend with my family and parents who made the trip every year to see me race and, ultimately find me at the finish (a little overcooked in 2004). Those are the Boston Marathon memories that I will always have no matter what – so I too will feel incredibly sad for a long time, but I will not let this coward(s) take those memories from me or my family. And I’m in for 2014…

    P.S. my second favorite memory is running through Kenmore Square wearing a shirt with “Jeter sucks!” scribbled across the front…was pure greatness.

  • Tracy Hall

    I share your sentiments, and your reaction. TEP is just two blocks away – over on Comm Ave – so even 30 years later, it’s all familiar. Add to that my daughter just started at the ‘tute as a freshman this year, so even after the panic (she’s fine) I’ve been shaken since.

  • dgay07

    Brad, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I enjoy your blog, but specifically enjoy reading about your marathon experiences. Yesterday was my 7th marathon, my 1st Boston and I was running it to support the Joslin Diabetes Center. I was among the first couple hundred people stopped a half mile away from the finish, right at the underpass at Comm Ave and Mass Ave- 1 block away from Hereford street. I was battling some cramps for the past 5 miles and instituted a walk at run/walk system while refueling at water stations. When I was stopped I looked at a spectator and said, “this isn’t good timing,” as my legs really began to cramp, he looked at me and said the same thing back. I then said, “but if someone is really hurt then it doesn’t matter.” More runners piled up, we all were trying to figure out what was going on. People mentioned they heard what sounded like really loud booms, the second one louder than the first. We all tried to make phone calls, no calls were going through, but text was working. My wife, in laws and son were supposed to be at the Public Garden. We began to see police men running towards Boylston, police cars, ambulances and fire trucks followed. I remember a group of three policeman running out by and heard one say, “we don’t know what’s happening yet, but we’ve got to get over there.” We eventually got an update that there was an explosion at the finish line and there were severe injuries, and thanks for patience. It was chaotic, it was scary. Nobody could get through to loved ones, not everyone had a phone, including me. About an hour later, they called off the race and directed us down Comm Ave to Berkely to get our bags off the buses. I finally got my cell phone and had a number of voice-mails, texts, and emails from family, friends, and colleagues from around the world. I still didn’t know the significance of what had happened! Just grateful that everyone in my family and charity group were safe!

    It is just terrible. Most of the runners at that time were in charity groups, which raised over $11M, and the supporters were there to push them across the finish in what would maybe be there first and last marathon. I was fortunate to have had cramping or else I wouldn’t have been 10 minutes behind my goal pace, I would have been on Boylston Street. The day was great, the crowds wonderful and as I approached Hereford I was imagining what Boylston was going to be like. It’s unfortunate that 10,000 of us couldn’t see the finish and cross the line, but in my mind we all are finishers and if given the chance, we will do it again to screaming crowds. If you and Amy ever need a place to stay in Wellesley let me know, although the Mandarin is tops!

    • What a story. Thx for taking the time to write this. So glad you are safe. And – you are definitely a finisher in my book!

    • Glad you are safe. This event, all marathons really, are the epitome of human achievement and cooperation. When I think of the hard work people put into this and the many volunteers, and the fund raising for charity, it sickens me to think someone thought it was a good idea to strike fear into people’s hearts.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Brad. Sometimes when I am feeling raw about something it helps to have someone else articulate their rawness and to just be in that place. Then real stuff happens from there.

    • Thx – agree – I appreciate your rawness also!

  • Andrew Tschesnok

    Brad, I also talked with WK since I figured he had to be close. Horrible. I’m really quite upset. Such hatred is required to turn something so beautiful into something so ugly. I’m not even angry yet since I’m still processing. I want to run in 2014.

    • I’m going to run it also!

  • brgInRedSidis

    so sad…I’m running my first marathon on April 28th with the aim to qualify for Boston. (I’ve never been a runner – it hurts too much.) However; when I hit 50yo my dislike of running turned to LOVE. My fitness and training runs say I’m right on track for my goal – now my determination to get there is stronger than ever. I’m heartbroken…thanks for posting your thoughts on this…see you there in 2014…

  • I immediately thought about you Brad, given your love of marathons & Boston being your ex-hometown.

    Whoever did this is sick, coward & evil.

    Our full solidarity is with you.

  • Yes, if anything, this really makes me want to qualify for Boston 2014 (unlikely I can run a 3:15 marathon, but I can try). I was in New York last year for the marathon that got cancelled (flew in my family from Europe for a great Sandy experience) and opted to run this year. I fear that it’s going to be pretty far from what I imagined NYC marathon should be, for a second year in a row – I’m not sure I want to go through all the checks, have police hand me water and be greeted by FBI at the finish line. But I will still do it, regardless of the drama; any bombing is incomprehensible but to do it at a marathon, that’s just a bit too crazy.

  • Austin

    We share your grief, my friend. My daughter was born at Beth Israel in Boston, and I have nothing but fond memories of my many years in the area.

    This act of violence is clearly calculated to stir emotional responses of anger and hatred, and ultimately a lashing-out. In my household, and without any instigation from me, I’m filled with a mixture of awe and pride to know that my one of my daughter’s first acts was to pray for the perpetrators, and that they might come to see the error of their ways.

  • Austin
  • Guest

    Tried posting a link, but it was apparently struck by an overzealous anti-spam thingie.

    Google for ‘Boston national anthem’ and see what it sounds like — post-bombing — when it’s done right.

  • As a child, my mother told me of my grandmother sheltering her children under a table during the Coventry Blitz. In the morning they tried to get a Bus into town. The postman said – it isn’t there anymore!

    I have also met people who survived the carpet bombing of Dresden. It is very hard to take these very personal stories in – they seem “other-worldly”.

    However in later life I was woken from sleep in London by two separate bombings and was affected by the raw commotion of the London bus bombings – It suddenly becomes real, emotional raw and tangible like a bad taste in your mouth.

    Still, though shaken I lost nothing in comparison with others. I try now to understand survivors and have patience when my mother recounts her tales again.

    My advice – for what it is worth, is to overcome the discomfort in talking and simply be there, and provide a shoulder to cry on or an understanding smile.

    I hope that most people can move on, feel for those that cannot, and believe that those like Brad that run the next marathon have a bigger message to send. Yes a marathon is a personal statement – but it can also be a very public one, simply a refusal to bow under pressure of evil is the best anyone can offer – I applaud it.

  • Camila

    Tragedy always reminds us that we are mortal. We need to get right with God, ask forgiveness for our sins. Which range from lying to murder. See, all sin, even what we might deem trivial is incredibly bad to a All Holy God. Where will you go when you stand before Him on judgement day? If you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your savior, believed He rose from death and defeated it, you need to today. (If not you will end up in Hell for all eternity!; I’m not trying to scare you to win your ‘vote’ or your “membership” into my “religion”; I believe in the Bible which is the truth of our creation and know Hell is real, as Heaven is also real. It’s a place of eternal torture). Then you need to ask forgiveness for your sins and turn away from them. I know I will be hated from bringing “religion” (or what most people think is religion; Jesus hated religion) into this conversation, but as God tells us in his Holy Word, “you will be hated for my namesake” Matthew 10:20 I accept that, and I care about you enough to tell you the truth not what you want to hear.

  • I think I’ve teared up every time I’ve run that 0.2 mile stretch. I’ve given a lot of thought to how this will change the soul of the Boston Marathon. I’m sure it is a different race than when I ran it a few times in college, but I’m also certain that the thing that mattered most, the city’s full embrace of the race, have never changed and won’t ever change.

    I’ve tried to put myself in the 2014 organizer’s shoes and tried to think what changes I’d make. While the temptation is there to try to secure the unsecurable, I’d love to see the organizers take the opposite approach – open the marathon all entrants. Embrace the city, the marathoners, the bandits, the whole community. Maybe not every year, but just this once. 2014 could be an opportunity to show in the most convincing manner possible that this year’s events made us stronger.