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IMG_0604[1]Last week, I participated in my first ever Boston Marathon.  I was thrilled to toe the line, even though I was sporting a cranky shin splint and a wicked cold.  As it turned out, it wasn’t my day for running as stomach issues quickly took hold, followed by cramps and more.  My pace went from a nice 8 minute mile, to 8:15, then 8:30… Once I slipped into 9 minute pace I knew my dreams of hitting a PR (personal record) were over.  I wanted to quit at mile 8 (it’s not good when you’re already battling your inner demons before the half-way mark).  I knew I had to go on.  I had signed up for the Boston to Big Sur Challenge which meant that I had to complete two marathons, on two coasts, in two weeks, otherwise, I wouldn’t earn my prize – a special finishers medal and jacket.  Only 400 people are accepted into the challenge (by contrast, there are over 25,000 Boston marathon runners and 2,500 Big Sur marathon runners) so I was part of a select few and I wasn’t going to give that up.

Due to my cramps and illness, I was able to interact with the crowds more than I usually do.  They waved and cheered – whatever they could to keep us runners going.  Around mile 22, I had severe cramps and had to pull over to stretch out.  I grabbed onto the fence that separates runners from spectators.  Immediately, some of the viewers rushed over to see if I was okay.  When I finally hobbled away, a kid stuck his hand out for a high-five.  Then another.  Next thing I knew, there were about 15 outstretched hands in front of me, all giving me energy.  Gives me chills just thinking about it again now.

I have never experienced support like that given in Boston.  It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life.  Which makes it even more shocking and heartbreaking that anyone could ever think of harming these selfless individuals who come out to cheer on strangers, treating mortal runners like we’re special for that moment in time.

I will never forget that sinking feeling when the first bomb went off and the dread when the second went off.  I will never forget the concerned look on the policemen’s faces as they gathered together before they stopped us from proceeding any further.  I was just about to enter Boylston Street, around the corner from the second bomb.  I was quickly redirected so I did not witness the aftermath of the explosions.  I am so sad and sorry for all those who were injured, both physically and emotionally.  And I am especially saddened by the family who have lost their loved ones.

Runners are a hearty lot who face aches and pains frequently and, as Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, the bombers “messed with the wrong demographic.”

Runner Strong.  Boston Strong.

Related articles:

Endurance runners know how to face fears (San Francisco Chronicle)

Marin residents in the middle of Boston Marathon bombing (Marin Independent Journal)

Marin Run to Remember Boston broadcast segment (KTVU Channel 2 Ten O’Clock News)

Marin’s Boston Marathon Runners Reflect on Tragic Bombing (San Anselmo Patch)

Kathy Johnson by Hans Roenau (San Rafael Patch)