The 27th Mile

As I’ve reflected on the last 24 hours, there’s a lot to say….I’ve had a lot of people ask if I’m okay, what I saw, how I am.  So here’s the story….

As I was finishing the race and turned onto Boylston street, I saw a sight I never, ever thought in my wildest dreams I’d run to: the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  After running a difficult race, I had made it.  I crossed the 26 mile marker and pulled my hand up to my mouth and just started crying.  I’m sure someone has pictures, and I’m certain I look ridiculous.

Just like that…tears streaming down my face.  Relief, excitement, fatigue, pain, and the thought of telling my kids that their mom had done something she never said she would do all overwhelmed my body, spirit and mind.  I pulled myself together and made a beeline for the fastest way out of the finish chute because I was on a mission:  find a port-a-potty.

For the last 10 miles of the race I knew my stomach was messed up and the bathroom was not a desire, but a necessity before I caused a huge scene.  I snagged a medal, a bag of food in record time for the finisher’s chute and ran to the bathrooms hoping I would make it.  Once inside, I realized I was a little “off” and my mom called.  Yes I answered my phone from the bathroom, but whatever, I just ran the Boston Marathon I could do what I want.  Not to mention I knew I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

In typical mom fashion, she nagged me to go to the medic tent just to make sure everything was okay.  I was too tired to fight back, so the beer at the pub I had spotted down just before the finish line and the finish line spectating on the way back to the hotel was just going to have to wait.

I’ve never been so glad to have had GI troubles.

After a quick 10-minute pitstop in the medical tent in which I promised to go to an ER if I developed a fever or severe abdominal cramping, I grabbed my checked bag and started making my way down Boylston to watch the finishers come in as a spectator on my way back to my hotel.

As I chatted with my mom on the phone I heard a loud boom, saw a huge plume of smoke about 2.5 blocks in front of me and apparently started saying, “This is bad, this is really bad” right away.  Not 15 seconds later the second boom went off, and I knew immediately things were not okay.  I watched people start tearing down the street in my direction and saw panicked volunteers and police officers moving the side rails on the street, urging people to climb underneath and rushing everyone off Boylston to the side roads.

And there I stood in the other side of the 27th mile facing the finishing line where I had just a short time before cried for so many other reasons, and just started tearing up again.

I turned the corner on a side street and saw one woman with a gash on her face – several of us asked if she was okay but she said she just wanted to keep running and would have someone look at it later.

On the side streets, many spectators, finishers, and others were blissfully unaware of what had just happened – many assuming the loud sounds came from Fenway or were a celebratory cannon of sorts.  Informed loved ones with panic in their eyes searching for family members they could not reach for lack of cell service roamed the streets as they were corralled further and further away from the finish line.

Shell shocked and wandering I ended up walking nearly 1.5 miles to my hotel in the cold due to all of the road closures and reroutes, shivering and hardly aware of my discomfort through eerily quiet streets where the only sounds were sirens and nervous chatter and tears of those who had seen far too much.

Once I got to my room, I saw the news, the pictures, the videos and my heart just sank.  My roommate and I sat in our room bombarded by calls, texts, and social media posts from concerned family, friends and coworkers.  In light of the awful circumstances surrounding it, I felt very loved and cared for.

I was staying at the Sheraton which was pretty much on lockdown since it was connected to Boylston through the convention center and the Prudential building.  The hotel was swept several times and National Guard & SWOT were very present and armed at the one and only available entrance.  The mood was nervous and somber after the race, but as one person put it well “There are two groups of people you don’t mess with: Bostonians and runners”.

As I read the paper on Tuesday morning, I saw a map where the controlled detonation took place – it was literally half a block from where I was standing when everything went down.  Grateful hardly begins to describe how I feel.  More than anything I just want to go hug my babies and snuggle with them for the next few days.

People have asked about security.  Honestly I was walking the area around 9pm the night before the marathon and the security was tight, tight, tight.  At one point, two of the people I was with stopped to take a picture and the Boston Police Department told us to keep walking – no stopping.  Security guards, Police and were on Patrol throughout the week.  I walked up and down that part of the street about 20+ times throughout my stay in Boston (my hotel was very close) and not one time did I not see a ton of security.  Unfortunately, senseless things happen.

I saw the 27th mile from two very different perspectives yesterday.  I am still grappling with the extremes I felt – such accomplishment

The CEO of my company put it well…”You’re shaken, but not stirred”.  I think that resonates with the city of Boston – despite the adversity, stories of bravery, selflessness and a hospitality and warmth have emerged  Even at the airport this morning I had an issue, and several airport employees picked me up in a vehicle and drove me where I needed to go asking if I was okay, had I seen anything (I was in my race shirt and hobbling on an overused knee) and sharing their love for their city.

There are a lot of families needing thoughts and prayers right now.  The 8-year old boy who died has a mother and sister who are severely injured, lots of kids were injured, one family had two sons lose their legs.

Boston, you put on a show and someone tried to steal it away, but you’ve responded in an amazing way.  Runners, you are a true community – and rallied to show the world that yesterday.  While I saw and experienced things yesterday I never thought I would experience, I am also awed and happy to be part of a community who, when hit with the worst, shows the world their best.

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28 thoughts on “The 27th Mile

  1. It’s hard to believe such a senseless tragedy could occur; why someone would do that is beyond comprehension. Despite all that has happened, I have been so moved by the comradery of the running community.
    It’s good to see you are safe, Sheila. It’s events like this that show you just how fragile life can be. Take care and hold those babies tight 🙂

  2. So glad you are ok, first and foremost. And you did a beautiful post here.

    I am just heartbroken over the entire thing. I know a local runner whose family was injured and in fact, one daughter is still unaccounted for. I can’t stand it.

  3. So glad you are OK. Congratulations on making it through a tough race and a tougher training season. My own son, husband, and mom have been on Boylston cheering in the past, and my heart breaks for those families. Soulless creeps have robbed a wonderful city’s storied and glorious tradition.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sorry you had to go through it and that your victory over a tough race was overshadowed by such a horrific event.

  5. I thought about you yesterday when I saw what happened. I’m so, so glad that you are okay, and I’m sorry you had to witness such a horrific event. I don’t even know what else to say because there really aren’t any words for any of this. I hope you’re doing alright.

  6. Sheila, I’m SOOOOO glad to hear you’re ok. I’ve been thinking of you these last few weeks as you trained and prepared for Boston — every runner’s dream. When I heard about the senseless act of violence that occurred yesterday on what should be a joyful and exhilarating celebration of endurance and tenacity I was sickened, then worried, and ultimately deeply saddened that such atrocities would be committed and that innocent individuals, especially the 8-year old boy, suffered at the hands of a hard-hearted and uncaring person or group. A young life was taken far too soon from this world. Many will carry wounds both physical and psychological for years. You have eloquently posted your feelings — you even made me smile when you commented about being grateful for GI issues

    Congratulations on completing the marathon — as a fellow runner I’m thrilled for you. I’m sorry that you had to witness such a horrific side of humanity. But, as you stated, there are two VERY strong groups that you don’t mess with: runners and Bostonians. They will — you will — persevere and rise above this showing your strength, will and determination to carry on and rise about such adversity.

    Hug your bambinos and snuggle them tight. Be well. Take care. TTYS!

    Valerie, Stratford.

  7. This brought tears to me eyes, the whole day was incredibly emotional and I wasn’t even there. I can’t imagine what you went through but SO happy you are safe. Huge your babies tight, the whole running community will help you get through.

  8. So glad to hear you’re safe and home with your sweet family
    . It was such a pleasure to run with you for the short time we did in Boston! Who would have guessed the turn of events that would occur just an hour or so later. Hope to reconnect and run again together at home soon.

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  10. Glad you are OK, and most certainly home by now hugging your kiddos. I still don’t really have any words for all this right now, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that whatever was intended by these blasts…exactly the opposite will happen. Runners (including yourself!) are pretty incredible people.

    Hope you find some peace and comfort in the coming days…

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