Tuesday, September 9, 2014

April 15, 2013 - if I had not stopped to give my daughter a hug, I might have been right there...

Michele Keane
The 117th Boston affected my life in ways I could not imagine would ever happen. And although I'm pretty rational and nothing physically happened to me, I still think about that day and what could have been.

I am a runner, with 45+ marathons and countless other races - half marathons, 10Ks, 5Ks, 15Ks, 10 milers - you name it. I've run pretty consistently for over 30 years and it is a part of me. I used to be "fast" back in the day but I can still hold my own in my age group. Running defines me to some extent. In fact, I have an ongoing joke with my daughter Shannon. When we travel to a place where I have run a race, I will say to her, "Mom ran here," and it has become our own little inside laugh and bond over the years.

However, I was not prepared for the events of April 15th, 2013.

My association with the Boston Marathon began as a two-year-old
watching the race by my mother’s side in downtown Natick.
I have since run Boston 12 times, with a course PR of 3:03:08 in 1986.

I'm posting my race report from last year, written in the immediate aftermath of the 2013 race. This was posted on a website hosted by a bunch of cool like-minded runner friends many of whom are mentioned and many of whom I ran Boston with last year. Boston 2013 will always be in my heart and in my mind, and regardless of how many times I run my "hometown" race, it will be special:

I'm starting to process a bit better all that happened on Monday. Glad all the people I know are all safe. Someone asked me if I will go back - hell yeah! Like John, I knew I was not nearly 100% going in, and if I had not stopped to give my daughter Shannon a hug and slowed down so much over the hills (they really tore me up this year like I knew they would), I might have been right there, since I was running with Vivian for much of the beginning of the race, and I saw her again around Boston College. My wheels really fell off going down the hill from BC (the hip/ITB issues I've been dealing with), and then the headwind seemed horrific. It doesn't seem like much now. (Interestingly, I ran those same miles back the day before Easter and the headwind was tough on Beacon Street then!)

My daughter is fine. They were at mile 25 on the bridge that leads to Kenmore Square, with the big Boston University flag. They were starting to leave when the police in Kenmore made everyone go out of the area and not into the T. Luckily, she lives just up Comm Avenue from Kenmore Square, so they were safe. BU locked down the campus as a precaution, but they had school yesterday. Sadly, news had not traveled yet as the third victim was a BU graduate student from China. There was a memorial yesterday at their chapel and now there sadly will be another. No, I am not making my daughter leave BU and Boston and go to school somewhere else. Boston is my home and she loves the city as well. We cannot run scared, we just have to be a bit more cautious again, like after 9/11.

As many of you know, I was roughly at mile 26.1 (by my watch) when the first explosion occurred. I stopped, as I thought it was someone shooting, but then I saw smoke and someone said they thought it was an electrical fire near the finish. Then the second bomb went off, and I remember smoke and fire and debris flying, and I ducked, turned and ran.

I then found myself in the parking garage entrance of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel with tons of spectators and runners. I remember looking at Boylston Street and wondering where everyone went and hearing sirens and seeing police and fire trucks. I borrowed a phone from some guy and called my mom, so she could call everyone, and I texted Shannon. A young runner, Julia from Bangor, Maine, was crying, and I gave her a hug as we were shuffled towards Mass Avenue by the cops. She was 24 , so I went into mom mode. None of us really knew what had happened, we were just following instructions from the police. I knew my in-laws had probably heard everything as they were at the corner of Hereford & Comm Avenue, and I had just seen them. I took Julia and we walked to their condo. We were lucky enough to be able to call Julia’s sister from a land line and her sister came to my in-laws to get her.

By that time, runners in mylar blankets were walking down the Commonwealth Avenue mall, so we went back outside to see what was happening. Granted, I still thought the second explosion was a gas main or a boiler in a building. The runners told me we could get our stuff as the baggage buses were still on the lower end of Boylston waiting for us. I was able then to pick up my gear bag and retrieve my phone and see all the messages, texts, etc., from all of my family and extended running family. Thank you so much!

I was staying at the Lenox Hotel which is exactly across the street from the second bomb site. The hotel was shut down, but I was lucky that night to receive a phone call from the general manager to see if I had a place to stay, and to say if I was in the area, I could get into the hotel to get my stuff  with a police escort either then or the next morning at 9:00 a.m. I walked all the way around from my in-laws to Mass Avenue, and down in back to Huntington to get to the other side of the building.

A Boston police officer escorted me up to my room so I could pack and leave. The building had been cleared so the elevators were working, but all the room doors were wide open. I was then escorted back down and had to walk all the way back around (it was like a two mile walk to where my in-laws live in one bedroom place on Exeter, really only two blocks away). I was then able to crash on their couch.

I'm hoping my body can heal enough to run Cleveland and get that BQ minus five minutes. Except for a couple of very small rollers, it is a flat course; but it isn't until May 19th, so the weather can be iffy. I need to get this ITB/hip thing cleared up, but I'm betting with rest, and my continued strengthening, it will get there pretty quickly. I gave up running multiple marathons back in 2010 when I ran myself into a staph infection and literally into the ground. However, I know I can and many of the others here feel that way as well. I was not planning on running Boston next year, but now, I'm hoping I can. Those bastards cannot win.

As for the race itself, I think Vivian and I did a good job of holding back as best as we could through the first 12 miles. I lost her when I stopped at my mom, and I kept seeing her but couldn't catch back up in the hills. I knew my leg would not handle the hills well, and I slowed down over them. I even walked through several water stops as it seemed real humid to me, and the sun was much warmer than I thought it would be. I guess that is what happens when you run in 30 degree F. temps (or lower) all winter and hardly get any warm weather.

My leg gave out coming down the hill past BC and if my friend Ken had not caught me at that point, I would have really walked the rest. Ken just ran a 4:01 at the Georgia Marathon which is hillier, so I knew he was going to run well over the hills. He was hurting a bit and the wind was tough, but we stayed together until I stopped to give my daughter and her friends hugs and high fives. Ken finished between the two explosions. I could see him in the distance because of his bright green hat. He is fine too. I think all the walking afterwards served my body well, as I'm not as sore as I expected, especially given the fact my ITB gave out. I think I might even "run" later today as it is supposed to stop raining.

This photo includes a singed $20 that flew at me and that
I grabbed when running from the site.

To me, it is simply a remembrance of a very strange and special day.

Michele Keane
Bay Village, Ohio

For more personal accounts of the 2013 Boston marathon, click here.

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