Where Were You……

… when JFK was shot, during the Oklahoma bombing, the attack of the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Sandy Hook, or 9/11? Some events have changed our lives – events so impressionable that we recall them with vivid memories of where we were, how we found out….how we felt at that moment.

I stood in my kitchen yesterday watching the coverage of the Boston Marathon in complete disbelief, total dismay. Initially, your heart weeps for the victims and their families. I have previously written of the stages a person passes through when dealing with “change” and my soul flies through them one by one until I reach anger – where I think I’ll stay for a while.

The first blast came at 4:09:50. A reporter said it must have been a mistake for the timing of the blasts to affect the back of the pack instead of when the elite runners were finishing. But all of these runners are elite, the best of the best. One runner said, “It’s the regular-person elite race. You’re toeing the line with the greatest regular runners in the world.”

The standards for qualifying for Boston 2013 are the lowest they’ve ever been. All of the age and gender categories are five minutes, 59 seconds faster than previous years, just for the chance to register. Even after the stricter qualifying time has been met, those 26,000 entries are filled with the fastest qualifying times.

A marathon I ran a few years ago was advertised as one of the fastest Boston qualifiers in the country. It was a flat, fast course with a wonderful, chilly March race date. One of the female age group winners was the mother of a 6-month old baby who had missed qualifying for Boston by 30 seconds. That’s just over one second per mile too slow. I overheard her say, “Now I have to do this all over again.” There is nothing easy about running 26.2 miles 5 minutes, 59 seconds faster than you ever have before….or even 30 seconds faster.

Each one of the 26,000 Boston runners has put in their time – finished the long slow runs, struggled through the hills and the speedwork, drug themselves out of bed early to run before work or come home to run before dinner –  in the heat, in the cold or in the pouring rain. And every one of them has earned their spot in one of the most coveted races – the runner’s race. Every runner has a story of how they got there, why they are running Boston, what it means to them.

Greg Meyer and Joan Benoit Samuelson, two American winners of the Boston marathon from 1983, were running this year. Greg was the last American male winner at Boston.

Shalane Flanagan was an American favorite this year making her Boston début. “You know what would be so cool? Flanagan asked. “You know what would be such a badass move? If I were to win the Boston Marathon and retire the next day. In my heart, I would feel complete winning Boston,” she said.

Joey McIntyre of the New Kids On The Block was on the starting line. He ran for his mom….his mom has Alzheimer’s.

But perhaps those most at risk yesterday as the tragedy unfolded were the spectators closest to the blast — the husbands, wives, parents, friends, children that supported these runners through the weeks and maybe years of qualifying.

My husband works out-of-town all week and then waits on me while I run for up to 3 hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning, or both. He wakes up with me at 5am on race days and hangs around wherever “race day” may be while I race. He gives me a hug when I’ve come home crying because a run hurt so bad I could hardly stand the pain, or when my feet are so sore I hobble around the house for 3 days. He understands when my body is so stiff that I moan turning over in bed at night. He helps me research my latest injury, how to cross train or how to break a streak of no motivation. How would I feel if he stood on the sideline of my race waiting to cheer me on as I ran by, and he got hurt?

Or, how about the several thousand runners behind the blast that worked so hard to qualify, train and make their way finally to this historic race only to have a DNF registered for this all-so-special-event in their life?

There are no good answers to these questions. Within a few days, we will no doubt learn more about the “who”, “why” and “how” of such a despicable act. In the meantime, this is one of those events in life that has reached all of us. You may know someone who was running, a co-worker’s brother/sister/spouse was running, you ran Boston years ago – its one of those far-reaching events that leaves its mark on all of us.

The Boston AP reported early yesterday:

Last year’s race came under the hottest sustained temperatures on record. About 2,300 runners took organizers up on the offer to sit that one out and run this year instead. For waiting a year, they got perfect running weather: Temperatures expected to rise into the mid-50s with not much of a wind near the Back Bay finish line.

“We got a bye,” race director Dave McGillivray said this week. “And that’s good, because we need this year to regroup.”

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