I Knew It Was a Bomb: The Boston Marathon a Year Later

A year ago I was 1,000 feet from a terrorist attack.  I wrote this at 3AM that night and when I read it, I still get chills.  Join me in remembering the 3 killed and hundreds injured in this senseless crime.  Next Monday, I return to Boston to run again.

 

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I knew it was a bomb….

Riding the bus to Hopkinton we were all smiles, as it was the beginning of our celebration. 27,000 of us with our own stories and our own individual ways of getting there. Some were running their first Boston – the pinnacle of their running success and a dream come true. Others were running their 19th, 20th. And yet others, like me, were in wave 3, running for charities like Dana Farber.

Much like 9/11, it was a beautiful crisp sunny New England day. You could feel the electricity in the air in Hopkinton, especially after the 90+ degree weather last year. This was a year to set personal records and redeem yourself. This was a year to celebrate Patriots Day.

I had decided prior to the race that time didn’t matter to me this year. This was my fourth consecutive Boston, and I brought my phone to take pictures and tweet my way through. Still I’d love to beat four hours.

I proceeded to put myself on a 3:45 pace. I was talking to other runners like I always do and taking pictures along the way.

At mile 7, something happened with my right shoe and I started having pain.  This has never happened to me in 12 marathons. When I stopped to go to the bathroom at mile 12, I knew I might be in trouble.

I found someone in the hills of Newton to take our mind off the physical challenge of that huge hill. I grabbed a guy from NYC on Heartbreak Hill and told him that I was going to talk to him so we both could get up the hill. It’s what runners do for each other.

The top of Heartbreak is mile 21. I was spent. My foot killed and I had no energy. Random spectators were giving out food…licorice and oranges fueled me. A Reese’s peanut butter cup gave me energy. But I felt like I needed to be done. It was just a 5 mile jog…but with the pain and the foot, I had to give it my all, and for some reason I became obsessed with my time.  I wanted to beat four hours and was on track to hit in the 3:50s. I knew if I stopped I wouldn’t beat it, and more importantly, would walk/run the rest and add 10-15 minutes.

I ran past the Dana Farber cheering section at mile 25. Inexplicably. I had stopped to hug them all at mile 6 and 17 but something was telling me to go. My friend David was going to look for me in Kenmore Square. I almost got my phone out to text him I was coming but didn’t want to slow down.

I turned down Bolyston like I had the three years before and basked in my accomplishment when I was done. When I finished, I dilly dallied around the finish line, talking to the Dana Farber coach and getting my medal.

Two blocks away…10 minutes later I heard the first explosion. It sounded like a cannon, but I knew it was a bomb. I looked down by the finish line and saw the smoke. I knew people must’ve been hurt. Then the other explosion.  Then mass chaos.

It’s 3:30 a.m. as I write this, and I should be in a post-marathon coma. But I can’t sleep. I can’t shake the image of the mushroom cloud of smoke. The noise from the bomb rings in my ears. The footage of the runners I passed to finish shakes me. The sirens from all directions haunt the quiet of my bedroom.

Just a marathon. A Boston celebration of Patriot’s Day. Spectators rooting us runners on – family members, friends and strangers. My friend David was walking to the finish line to find me with his kids and was 100 yards away.  I’m sure he’s not sleeping tonight either.

There’s so much good in this world to let these cowards win with their acts of terror. The bombs went off in wave 3, which is mostly charity runners.  Groups like the 550 of us from Dana Farber that raised nearly $5 million.

We won’t let them take that from us. I won’t let them win.

While I’m shaken to the core, I’m home safe with my family. 10 minutes and it may have been a different story. Just 10 minutes.

My thoughts and prayers to all the people and families impacted.
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About Steve Mitzel

By trade Steve is a consultant that helps business optimize their performance. Steve resides in Connecticut with his four wonderful children in the teens or tweens and is always looking for the next adventure. He is an avid marathoner who raises money for research to prevent cancer. As a two time grad from the University of Michigan he bleeds maize and blue and also likes to dabble with writing.
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One Response to I Knew It Was a Bomb: The Boston Marathon a Year Later

  1. DiTucci says:

    Thanks for sharing this one again, Steve.