After Mile 25

I wasn’t planning to write this. After this long week, I was thinking it would be best to keep trucking along. After talking with a friend, however, I realized that maybe I need to write it all down.  Fair warning, this may be a long post, but it was a long few hours on that Monday. So, here it goes, although some things are still fuzzy in my mind.

I remember feeling strong during the marathon, my body was aching but I knew it would ache whether I stopped at mile 18 or 26.2 so why not finish. Reaching the top of Heartbreak Hill I was proud, and seeing my brother and his friends celebrating the day of no classes was great.  I was losing steam again around mile 22, but knowing that my lovely roommates would be just around 23 kept me going. Right after I passed them, the craziness began. A call from my dad talking about some “explosion” (I assumed electrical since he was calm-little did I know this calmness was for my benefit), and another call from my brother asking if I was okay. Yes, I’m okay, but I’m trying to finish the marathon! Immediately after hanging up with my brother I remember seeing a girl slowed to a walk, sobbing, hand on her head in upset and talking on the phone. She must be hurt, how horrible not to be able to finish. In retrospect, she probably had just heard the news and was devastated.  I started noticing spectators were distracted, looking at their phones and talking to one another instead of watching the race. I remember stopping a police officer and asking him if we’d be able to finish, and him muttering something like “I don’t know.” I was getting a little concerned, and called my dad back, but the phone kept going to voicemail. Somehow I was able to keep running and keep calling him, though his phone never rang and I never left a voicemail.

The confusion only built, and trying to sort things out while trying to keep running, I didn’t know what else to do, I asked other runners if they knew what was going on. Some were as confused as me and others had no idea anything had happened. A colleague from my district and I caught up with one another and were trying to figure out what was happening and if we should keep running. We did. Through Kenmore Square the chaos must’ve been building, but I don’t remember. All I could see was the road in front of me and swarms of runners.

Somewhere between 25 and 26, I was stopped. It must’ve been a group of police officers who said “race is over, there’s no finish, there’s been two explosions.” My family. My family was going to the finish. My dad called me after an explosion but he didn’t mention a second. Panic set in. Thankfully when I looked at my phone I saw I had a text from CT saying my family and close friend and her boys were okay. But a part of me didn’t believe it, and knew I wouldn’t believe it until I saw them.  I didn’t know if I should try to get to my family, and didn’t know how to, so I somehow decided to walk in the direction of my apartment. Through a sea of runners who kept going despite people telling them to stop. Sobbing, wrapped in a foil blanket that I thankfully got my hands on, I told incoming runners the race was over. Some stopped, some yelled back that they weren’t stopping, it’s a bit of a blur.  I remember stopping several spectators and police officers, begging for information. Who did this? What happened? How many are hurt? No clear answers.

National Guard spectators and BPD came together, trying to keep one side of Beacon Street clear for all the emergency vehicles, and steering herds of people to the sidewalks and side streets. At one point I was told to turn off of Beacon and hobbled through a back ally with others to navigate our way around the closed part of the street. A sweet little boy and his family gave out waters from a cooler, much needed. All this time, texts were coming through rapid fire. I couldn’t keep up. Things were delayed. Not all texts went through. Phone calls were impossible. First because the phone lines were down, then because my phone died.

Random people kept stopping me, asking if I was okay, asking what they could do. One T-Mobile employee let me come in and charge my phone. But I couldn’t sit still. My mind was racing. I’m still confused now as I write this. I charged my phone a tiny bit, got ahold of my best friend and asked her to pick me up. Waiting the half an hour until I was in her car was one of the longest times I’ve experienced. I dragged myself into a pizza place, guzzled my water and collapsed into a chair. The news was on blaring information about the Marathon bombings, I couldn’t even look. My family. Runners. Spectators. People died. How did this happen? I got in the car when I saw my friend, other friends jumped out of the car to offer me a hug but I couldn’t do it. I sunk into the car seat and was sobbing. Angry that I couldn’t keep up with my phone. Angry that it was dying again. In utter shock and disbelief. 

My legs hurt so much, and I knew if I was going to do anything I had to get into the ice bath so I could hopefully walk again soon. Charging my phone, trying to respond to texts, making hysterical phone calls to concerned family members and freezing in a tub while my roommates dumped ice on me. Not exactly how I imagined my post-race ice bath. I remember hearing the news of another explosion, which turned out to be unrelated, and losing my mind. I was able to text my dad, telling him I was coming to get them. I would get in a car and drive into the city. He was able to convince me not to. Phone calls poured in. My cheeks burned from the salty tears.  I showered. My brother ran to my apartment from his. This calmed me a bit because somehow him telling me he talked to my parents made it a bit more real that they were okay. I couldn’t keep up with my phone. Facebook “I’m okay” post completed. I felt like I was a robot, putting clothes away, brushing my hair, responding to texts and calls, probably looking robotic because my knees did not want to move.

My family got here. My mom, dad, friend and her two sweet boys came. Hugs. Whispers about the chaos, “where were you when I called?”, “Dad, I tried to call you back after we hung up.”, “We’re all okay.”

I’ve shared much of my reactions from the days following this, but here is April 15. A beautiful day that started with a buzz of excitement, persistence, strength and spirit. It ended in tragedy, devastation, disbelief and sadness, but there was still spirit. Boston Strong. Thinking of those who can’t share their experience from that afternoon, those who are in physical pain from that afternoon, and those who like me are still grappling at fuzzy memories and lasting confusion about Marathon Monday.

I figured this post was especially fitting as I plan to visit the memorial tomorrow. There you have it, what happened just before I stopped running and in the hours after. I can breathe a little deeper getting all out. Thank you for reading and for sending thoughts to Boston.


2 thoughts on “After Mile 25

  1. Sara

    lauren, thank you for sharing your story. you are a tough cookie and a strong girl. thank you for being an inspiration that i know all of your students, family, and friends look up to! ❤


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