Organic Runner Mom

Getting real. PTSD and the Boston Marathon. It never goes away.

Don't be afraid of your shadow; it's really just a constant reminder that there's light all around you. A discussion about PTSD and the Boston Marathon.

Don’t be afraid of your shadow; it’s really just a constant reminder that there’s light all around you. A discussion about PTSD and the Boston Marathon.

Last week was not one of my better ones in the emotional sphere.

For a number of reasons things were feeling out of control one of them being the London Terror attacks which triggered my PTSD from The Boston Marathon in 2013. Out of nowhere I was a sobbing crying mess and feeling anxious and out of control. I have been doing very well with PTSD as the years have passed but when you experience an event that causes PTSD things get rewired in your brain and unexpected triggers can cause a response that is atypical for most people. On a whim I dropped a quick message to my blogging friend Lisa who blogs at RunWiki. While we have never met in real life I always loved Lisa’s blog and then felt forever connected with her by experience after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. Her experience was almost identical to mine. We finished within a minute or two of each other. We traveled through the chute, receiving our medals, our space blankets and then to the buses for gear bag pick-up and that’s when it all came crashing down. It wasn’t cannons for Patriots day that we heard. It was bombs. And it was f-ing scary.

Over the past few years we have reached out with words of acknowledgement and understanding of the feelings that we were going through. We should have reached out long before now. No one should have to feel these things alone.

With this years Boston Marathon around the corner I am excited but there always resides within fear and anxiety. I love the race but the crowds I could do without. The sounds of celebration and cheering are comforting and inspiring but other sounds during the race can be jarring emotionally. When you run 26.2 miles you are pushing your body and your mind anyways which is enough to send anyone spinning out of control so these terrifying emotions from 2013 need to be controlled so I can still run my best.  But I remember where I was when I ran that day. I was running a perfect race. I was on a high as I came down Boylston Street. You know that feeling when chills take over your body when you know you have accomplished a goal. You made it happen. You ran with your heart and let it all hang out. You went for it and as you came towards the finish line you were smiling as wide as you could. You felt as though you were flying. You high five everyone you can as you run along the metal barriers holding back the crowds keeping things under control. There are men and women who look just like you lining the course. Kids with their hands reaching outwards with toothy elementary kid smiles. You high five their little hands wanting to share your energy and success with each one. It is a celebration for you and for them.

Until it is not.

Finally walking back to find our car, 3 hours later. 3 hours I waited on the streets of Boston. Sirens wailing. Cold. Depleted. Destroyed. Devastated. Angry. We walked through the streets of Boston. Remnants of the race. A celebration ended abruptly. Barriers pushed haphazardly out of the way. plastic cups strewn on the ground. Emptiness, eerie silence and sorrow hanging like a cloud. I just wanted to get out of there.

These emotions trap me at times but then they can also lift me up and bring me strength. I am still here. I can run again. But sometimes it seems wrong and unfair. The feelings linger and sometimes I catch my heart racing. I am holding my breath. Stopped in my tracks, and then it passes.

The best thing to do now is to tell you about it. And Lisa extended her hand to me let me cry and listened when I needed it. These feelings can linger and that is normal. I am forever grateful for the strength of friends when we find ourself in a place of weakness. It is ok to let the emotions flow over you and it is important to reach out and talk about what’s left inside. The worst thing to do is to go it alone.

Thanks for listening today. Maybe what I’ve said can help you too.

Much love and on to more running and goal seeking!

Resources for PTSD:

Organic Runner Mom



21 responses

21 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing so openly, Sandra! I agree that talking about it is one of the best things you can do. I’m sure it’s something you will never forget! That is an extremely traumatizing experience. But you are loved and supported..we’re all rooting for you to have an awesome experience this year, and not to let fear hold you back from that!
    Laura recently posted…Recovery week + Meal PlanningMy Profile

  2. It’s really difficult. Perhaps to the world, it seems as though we should have moved past these emotions, but when you go through something so surreal, so traumatic, it rewires the brain.

    The most courageous act I can think of is trying to undo the emotional damage of that horrible day. It’s not easy.

    My husband flipped on the trailer for the movie “Patriots Day” and within the first second I was sobbing, it even came as a surprise to me that I reacted so strongly. It creeps up on and jumps out from behind the metaphorical bushes.

    I believe that’s what happens to you too and I deeply understand the anxiety and fear that arises in you. I found our conversation to be very healing and we should continue digging deeper into the “how and why” of it.

    I am not running this year, but I still feel the anxiety because of the anniversary of it. It rises up like wave building. Just like the ocean, the waves won’t ever stop coming, but we can learn to become really, really good surfers Sandra. I believe in you. My soul stands right next to yours. Love you like a sister. Wrapping my arms around you.

    1. I am not a marathon runner, but I am an endurance athlete (triathlon) so am very involved in the community, which I got into after college. I went to school in Boston (BU, so mile 25ish of the course) and partied on Marathon Monday like everyone else. I went back for the race the year after I graduated to hang out and party with friends, but I didn’t quite get it yet.

      Fast forward a few years, and a dear friend qualified for 2012 (the hot year), so my husband and I went out for the weekend to visit and to cheer her on. By this point we were firmly entrenched in the endurance community and finally understood the mystique of Boston.

      We were getting ready to leave on a trip to Tucson to buy our first TT bikes for our first Ironman when the marathon bombings happened. I was at work that morning, with my husband at home, texting me race updates (he was watching). I was about done for the day when I heard the news. We were shell-shocked, watching the TV. I was sick to my stomach. I was frantically calling people I knew in Boston, making sure they were safe, looking up the runner tracker to find the many friends I knew who were racing.

      The next few days, while on our trip, we watched the saga unfold. Thankfully, everyone we knew was safe. We knew a few people that got stopped on Comm Ave, unable to finish. A good friend was on house arrest because he lived a few doors down from the bombers.

      I saw the previews for the movie and every time I saw them or saw a commercial I started crying immediately. I thought it was too soon for the movie, or at least my heart felt it was. After reading up on it, I was heartened to hear how much care Mark Wahlberg gave it, having the actors talk so much with their real-life counterparts, using actual items in the film. A part of me realized I needed to see it.

      My husband still holds a lot of anger toward the bombers and wanted to throw stuff at the screen. We went to the first showing of the day at a dollar theater and yes, I cried a lot throughout, but thankfully not the whole movie (I was a bit worried).

      I’m still not sure if I have a strong desire to do a stand-alone marathon (despite really enjoying the run portion of an IM), but I know I will someday, because I have a deep visceral need entrenched in my heart to run Boston.
      T recently posted…WRtW March EventMy Profile

  3. I still struggle with it everyday. I was on the other side,800 meters from finishing when it all came apart.
    There is hardly a run when i don’t, at some point, think about that day. I still have lots of anger, sometimes directed at things that might not be fair, Runners World using it as a money making event and don’t even talk to me about that movie.
    But it gets better, it will be better, and I use it to try and make the world a little better.
    I wear 4 names on my shirt, every time I race.

  4. Ugh yeah, I still have not watched that footage from that day… I don’t think I’ll be watching the documentary that’s coming out in a few weeks. I just can’t. Maybe that’s not the healthy way to deal with it… but I will never forget the feelings of that day —> the elation of finishing the world’s greatest marathon and feeling all of the worst emotions just minutes later. But agree, it’s best to have someone you can chat with about it. xoxo
    Lora @ Crazy Running Girl recently posted…Welcome to the taper + last week’s workout recapMy Profile

  5. This is such a beautiful post. I can’t even imagine what it was like to be there in person. You are so brave for sharing your feelings and emotional journey through it all. Big hugs to you and also for pushing through the fear and running this race again and again. This is such a testament to the power of strength. xxoxo

  6. Sandra, I can’t even begin to imagine what your emotions must be like right now. So glad you have a great support system and friends in place to connect with and share your feelings. All I can say is that I will be cheering you on in Boston! xoxo and tons of hugs!
    Kara A. Forrest recently posted…Weekly Reflections: Life and RunningMy Profile

  7. What you are going through is completely understandable. I like the point you made about already being raw during a marathon, and the contrast between that absolute high and the horror. Keep reaching out, keep sharing, and keep knowing we are supporting you from near and far. (((hugs)))

  8. Wow I was at my gear bus that day also…the very first bus on Boylston. We must have finished near the same time. I was actually starting to head back toward the finish line to get pictures when the first bomb exploded. Our feelings and experiences are so similar. Scared out of my mind I was able to make my way to the family waiting area and cried with relief when my mother was standing there with my two children right under the letter “M” like I had told them to. It took us hours, but with the help of some friendly Bostonians we were able to reach our hotel without using the “T”.The sirens rang in my head for days. I remember staying up all night long wine glass in one hand, cell phone in the other watching the police patrols from our hotel window. It’s so easy to fall victim to fear and anxiety about the experience. But as our experiences are similar I notice one difference. I love the crowds. I love the people who show such great resolve. I have been lucky enough to qualify and run Boston every year since and sobbed like a baby in 2014 in the final stretch on Boylston. I feel even more resolve after watching Patriots Day. I feel the movie made me even more appreciative of our first responders and connect more with the victims. I was stunned to see myself in the final clips finishing last years race! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I’m so thankful I came across this article…knowing there are others out there like me!

  9. Thinking of you my friend. I can’t imagine the emotions that well up, especially as race day approaches. Thank you for sharing this and what you’re feeling and still feeling. I know that a lot of people still feel the reverberations of that day. xoxo

  10. I can totally relate. We had a delayed reaction when we returned from Boston in 2013. I’d compartmentalized it until I saw the movie this Spring and many of those emotions returned. I feel however our country and Boston became stronger as a result. Hang in there.

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