Runners say Boston bombing won’t keep them away
Linda Bachand-Doucet of Pawtucket, R.I., entered the Boston Marathon with two pals who were hoping to earn membership in a group for avid runners of 26.2-mile races.
They were about five miles from the finish when one of her friends got a cellphone call from his mother, up ahead in the stands: There had been an explosion. The trio couldn’t complete the race.
Yet Bachand-Doucet says she and plenty of other marathoners are determined not to run away from an event and a distance they love, no matter what fears might have been raised by Monday’s bombing.
“This won’t prevent me from running. I have marathons (scheduled) for every weekend now until the middle of the summer,” said the 44-year-old Bachand-Doucet, a detective in the major crimes unit of the Pawtucket Police Department.
Then, with half a chuckle, she added: “I may get another life insurance policy.”
She and other runners are already marking their calendars, eager to get back on the road, step by step. For Bachand-Doucet, that includes the Oz Marathon in Olathe, Kan., on Saturday, the Big Sur International Marathon in Carmel, Calif., on April 28, the Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati on May 5.
And, looking way ahead, the Boston Marathon on April 21, 2014.
“Without a doubt I will absolutely be there!!!!” Bachand-Doucet wrote in an email to the AP on Wednesday.
Noting that it’s difficult to know for sure how many people share those feelings, former Boston Marathon race director Guy Morse wrote in a text to the AP: “It is my sense from those with whom I have spoken or otherwise heard from, there seems to be an almost universal desire to support and come back to Boston, no question.”
Ernesto Burden, a 42-year-old from Manchester, N.H., finished in under three hours Monday, but couldn’t truly celebrate that achievement.
He’s eager to return.
“I’ll register on Day 1,” he said.
Stacy Wingard, a 42-year-old who lives outside Seattle, Wash., ran her 10th marathon Monday, her first in Boston, and was timed in 3 hours, 29 minutes, 50 seconds. But because of about a half-hour lag at the start, she said she was only a few blocks away when two bombs went off near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 170.
Wingard said Monday’s bombing will not affect her decisions about entering future races, including Boston — and she’s heard the same from other runners in emails and Facebook messages.
“I qualified to come back next year,” Wingard said, adding: “I’ll come back next year.”
That kind of determination is part of the very essence of distance running — the will to keep pushing. And it will play a role in how people respond to the Boston attack, according to Scott Dickey, CEO of Competitor Group Inc., which manages more than 35 marathons and half marathons around the world.
“The endurance community is resilient. ... Your ability to resist and withstand and recover from trauma — that’s what ‘to endure’ means. And so this is the wrong community to challenge, because these people are tough and gritty, especially those that work so hard to qualify for the Boston Marathon,” Dickey said.
“You’re seeing an incredible rally cry within the running community,” he said. “And I think you’ll see participation and the celebration around marathons, not only continue, but grow.”
Mike Ewoldt, co-owner of a running gear store and a race manager in charge of several events in the Omaha, Neb., area, agrees that the attack in Boston will not hurt running’s popularity.
“Most of us don’t run away from things. We run for things — charity, ourselves, our families,” Ewoldt said. “I don’t see where this is going to diminish running at all.”
Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon spokeswoman Kari Watkins also expects people to be more determined to run after Boston. Her April 28 race was started as a fundraiser for the memorial and museum dedicated to the 168 people killed and nearly 700 injured in the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
“That is more a signal of defiance. We’re going to stand up together and show how terrorism did not win. Oklahoma City as a community has spent two decades saying terrorists won’t defeat us,” Watkins said. “This is an exclamation point on that.”
Watkins said runners who didn’t finish the Boston Marathon are invited to Oklahoma City to run for free — and they will be allowed to pick up at the mile where they stopped, if they want.
Marathoning is that rare sport that allows amateurs to participate right there alongside the elites. That’s part of the appeal, certainly.
So, too, is the way that trying to finish a marathon — or even training for one — can serve as a test for one’s body and mind.
And the solitude offers a chance for reflection.
“We find peace and perspective in our running,” said Rick Nealis, director of the Marine Corps Marathon, held in October in Virginia and the nation’s capital. “A marathon runner goes out in all kinds of weather. People say, ‘You’re going in the rain? In the snow? In the morning? At night?’ And that’s right. It’s ‘me’ time. And you do feel safe, because you’re in control of your route and your destiny when you’re training.”
Nealis said a key part of a race director’s job is allowing entrants to focus on their running by removing any concerns about safety.
He expects there to be a spectrum of reactions to Boston.
“Some are going to go to one end: ‘This is not going to change my lifestyle. I’m going to be more determined than ever to run.’ Others are going to be scared and timid and worried about safety at large events,” Nealis said. “Next year, some people might not want to go to Boston. But I seriously doubt it.”
Diane Jones-Bolton, a 51-year-old from Nashville, Tenn., who is married to former major league pitcher Tommy Bolton, wasn’t allowed to finish Monday. She said Boston would have been her 195th completed marathon, including more than 20 this year so far.
Next up for her is Saturday’s Oz Marathon.
“There’s definitely going to be a little timidness going into it and approaching the start and when I see the crowds. That’s exactly when I think I’ll start feeling a little jittery, just anticipating if you hear any noise,” Jones-Bolton said.
“Inside the hotel (in Boston), when I took shelter, there was this loud noise, and everybody panicked and screamed — and it was just a table falling,” she recalled. “Everybody was on edge at that point, not knowing, because we were still so close to the finish.”
To be sure, some are harboring second thoughts about entering marathons.
“I took a call from a very irate parent who screamed at me because I won’t cancel the race, because I’m putting her daughter at risk,” said Jan Seeley, the director of the April 27 Illinois Marathon. “And we’re anticipating more of that.”
One runner who doesn’t plan to be in Boston again is David Fortin of Darlington, Wis.
“I had a good race, and I might have thought about coming back,” said Fortin, who finished Monday in 3:17:37, “but now it’s not worth it.”
Jean Knaack, the executive director of Road Runners Club of America, empathizes with people who might have doubts.
“Any time you’re in a large-crowd situation, there is that anxiety,” she said.
Her group insures several thousand races around the United States, including several hundred marathons (although not Boston’s).
“When you really look at what happened in Boston, they weren’t targeting running. They targeted an international sporting event that was televised. There are a lot of events that could fit that target as well — a basketball game, a football game. There are lots of situations where activities could be targets,” Knaack said. “It can be hard to keep that in mind. This was not an attack on runners. This was an act designed to get exposure, and had the desired effect, certainly.”
Hallie Von Rock, a 36-year-old lawyer from Alameda, Calif., qualified for this year’s Boston Marathon but couldn’t make it there because of work commitments.
She had been considering trying to go in 2014.
“But after this happened,” Von Rock said, “I thought, ‘I’ve got to do it.’”