Just keep running. Just keep running. I am focused on the finish line. I am running down the center of the street, staring at the big beautiful blue banner straight ahead of me that signifies the end of my journey. It creeps closer. One block to go.
Suddenly I hear a loud bang in front of me. It startles me out of my zone. I am not sure what is happening. Are there fireworks at the finish? I then look left in time to see a large fireball several hundred feet in front of me. It shoots up the side of a building and sends a blast of air, flying debris and a billowing cloud of smoke.
Some runners ahead of me keep going. I want to finish but instinct tells me to turn around. I make a 180 degree turn to my right and start running away from the finish line, away from where I have been trying to get for the past 6 months and 26 long miles. I keep running and making my way to the left side of the street, hoping to find a place to sit down until I know if it is safe to finish. It’s ok if I take a few minutes to sit down, right? They will still let me finish I think to myself.
Seconds later to my immediate right a second explosion happens. I feel the shock waves. Fear sinks in. We are being attacked. People are bombing us from above. It is not safe here and I need to get out. Everyone starts screaming, pushing and running. I can’t get past the barrier. Something originally there to separate spectators from runners is now separating all of us from safety. A man next to me, as if reading my thoughts, rips apart the barricade to let me and others through. I run up a side street (Ring Road I later learned) and stop under a bridge. People are running towards me screaming. More fear sinks in. Where is my husband? Was he at the finish? Oh God. I need to find him. We need to get out of here.
I start running again and speed dial him on my cell phone. Thankfully he answers. Expecting to hear my tired, elated voice telling him I finished I instead scream into the phone.
“We are being bombed. There are explosions.”
He replies “What? Where are you? Did you finish?”
“No” I scream “There is a bomb at the finish line”.
At that moment I see a store entrance to my left. I run in and ask where I am and a surprised woman tells me “Shaws”.
I yell into the phone, “I am at Shaws, you need to come find me. We need to get out of here”.
I hear him say he is on the T and headed my way and I hang up. I later learn that at that moment his T disappears into the underground tunnel. At the next stop they announce that the train is out of service and everyone must exit the train. He leaves the station and starts his own marathon run through the still ongoing race, spectators and police lines to find me.
I sit down on the floor in the grocery store entrance, next to the carts, shaking uncontrollably from cold, fear and just running 26.2 miles. I can’t move. People are coming into the store asking what happened. I recount the details that I know. As I am doing this, more people come through the door carrying two runners with bloody legs. The store manager comes out and gives me water and brings me inside to sit on a chair. I sit there shaking, unable to do much more.
Moments later it is announced they are evacuating the store. All patrons need to put down their items or finish making their purchases and leave. Leave? How can I leave? Where do I go? I try to call Eric. No service. Just then a text comes through from him saying he is on Huntington Street. I ask a store clerk where that is and she points across the street.
I stumble out the door into the cold and wind. I only have my shorts and sweaty T-shirt on and am frozen to the core. My legs have tightened up and I can barely walk. Police and emergency vehicles are racing down the streets everywhere. The sound of sirens fill the air. It is complete chaos. I search the crowds of people and finally see my husband waving his arms from across the street. I make my way through the crowd, a short walk that seemed longer than the 26 miles I had just run, and finally into his arms.