Run For: Marathon Monday
My intense love for Patriots Day and the Boston Marathon developed early on in my life. I was 14 when I first decided to run the marathon. I fell in love as I watched it on TV with my sister. I loved the intense energy of the crowds as they cheered the runners on. I loved how dedicated and focused the runners were. I thought all those people crowded at the start were the coolest thing. Someday, I vowed to be there.
Of course, at the time—I don’t even think I knew that a marathon meant 26.2 miles—or just how far that was. I was 23 years old the first time I officially ran it. I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it through the whole thing. I wanted to die: it took me 6.5 hours to finish. If I hadn’t had my best friend there waiting for me, I know for a fact I would’ve just hopped right on the nearest T that I saw. And who knows? Maybe today, I would still not be a finisher of the Boston Marathon.
This year will be my eighth Boston. I have managed to slice my marathon time nearly in half from that 6.5-hour time to a 3:45. I have never given up—I’m the furthest thing from a quitter and every year I edge my way closer to becoming an elite (hey, a girl can dream). I have a fire within my soul that will burn the cement under my feet while I shoot to the finish line.
Last year, I was a tenth of a mile from the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon—26.1 miles run and done when, suddenly, a bomb went off in front of my eyes. Then another, 15 feet to my left.
“What followed were the most harrowing two minutes of my entire life.”
What followed were the most harrowing two minutes of my entire life. The city interrupted into a mass panic. People were fleeing, screaming, some realizing their wounds. Blood was everywhere. Although my group of friends knew that I was about to finish, it was terrifying for me—I was alone, with a dead phone, and I was running back toward where bombs went off because that’s where my people were standing. I did not know if there were more bombs. I did not know if the ground I was standing on was even stable. I did not know where my friends were. But by some freaking incredible miracle, they found me only two minutes later. One of my girlfriends told me that the moment they found me will haunt her forever because I couldn’t stop screaming.
I have been changed from this experience; people have shown their true colors. The unselfish generosity and displays of love that I alone have received is incredible. People that I haven’t seen in years called my parents’ house to check on us, expressed concern on my Facebook, or sent me a text. By the time I turned on my dead cell phone, I had almost a hundred texts asking if I was ok. I didn’t even know I knew that many people. This year has been difficult, but I have had a constant support team of people surrounding me who tell me that, “I’ve got this.” And I do. Their love will surely keep these feet going.
So I walked out of that experience knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that people are good. They are kind. And that I am loved. I love more passionately and more deeply than I ever knew was possible. So, maybe if you are operating on the principle that “everything happens for a reason” then perhaps you can say the reason I was utterly too close to the bombs is to realize my own purpose in life. Yes, bad things have happened. Yet, out of the wreckage, good things have sprung. I am living proof that miracles happen. I will never waste a single day because today is a gift.
“That day I made the decision to go back—because I love the Marathon. It stole my heart a long time ago.”
Last year, as I walked around the city of Boston, I wondered about the 2014 marathon. Would it still happen? Would it be cancelled? Would runners even want to return? The bombs had gone off and we were standing among pure pandemonium—sirens howling from every direction, helicopters in the sky—police everywhere. I was dragging my exhausted and shaky body around while we waited to be picked up. And I knew, I just knew that there wasn’t anything I wouldn’t have done to get a number for 04/21/2014. That day I made the decision to go back—because I love the Marathon. It stole my heart a long time ago, and I never got it back. Patriots Day: it’s a day that represents freedom, community, and spirit. I will forever be smitten by its course, the crowds, its energy. I am fired up to run and it’s still a few weeks away. My moment of crossing the finish line was stolen from me. I have been feeling its absence for the past year. Marathon Monday has always been my special day—more symbolic to me than even my birthday. It’s a day where I celebrate with my family and friends as we toast to another great year. No bomber can steal that feeling from me.
This year will be something to see—I have goose bumps just thinking about it. The city of Boston and all its surrounding towns have rallied. We became one Boston Strong: a united front. I am flat out refusing to cave into fear and not return—that’s what the bombers wanted and I won’t do it. I’m strong. Hell, I’m from Boston. We shut down a whole city to catch the bad guys. So this year, I will run because no one can take Marathon Monday away from me. I will run for those who can’t be there: for those who lost their lives, for my friends who have anxiety and won’t be returning, and lastly, for me, because I will always finish the race.
Nicole Bedard is the author of the website The Girl Who Ran Everywhere. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.