The 2014 Boston Marathon is quickly approaching. My training has been amazing so far. I am feeling physically stronger than I have been in a long time and I am loving each and every run no matter how hard it may be. Part of being successful as an athlete is pushing yourself through physical challenges to become physically stronger.
It has been a tough year since the attacks at Boston last year shattered my sense of safety and turned my whole world upside down. I left the 2013 Boston Marathon physically broken down. I immediately addressed my physical needs, taking some time off of running with my foot in a walking boot.
It took me longer to recognize that my experience at the Boston Marathon had more than just a physical effect on me. I left the Boston Marathon full of fear and anxiety and feelings of being alone.
After my Boston Marathon was complete I had about ten minutes of elated celebration and joy before the sounds of the blasts rang through the streets. Ten minutes of emotional high before plumes of blackened smoke lifted into the sky and paralyzed the people around me. I was frozen and afraid and by myself. Was it a celebration for Patriots Day? Another runner and I shared a moment of connection and acknowledged our fear. Something was wrong. And then the sirens began to scream. They came from all directions. The crowd around me was eerily quiet with only quiet words of “where should we go?” and, “how do we get out of here?” No one was sure about what was happening. It couldn’t be real. Some young men ran through the crowd shattering the quiet yelling for people to get out of there, to go to hospitals, people needed blood, people needed help. Things were desperately wrong. I was still alone. I did all I knew I could do, to go to the family meeting area and to wait for my husband. Everyone around me was in survival mode, each caring for their own. I didn’t want to be there anymore but couldn’t leave. I didn’t know where to go or how long I would be there. No one seemed to no what was happening. It was a calm panic.
It was terrifying standing in the middle of the tall buildings wondering what else could go wrong. I reached my mom on the phone again but this time it wasn’t, “how was your race?” She asked, “Are you ok? You are ok, right?” I was ok but she confirmed my fear, people were hurt and I needed to stay where I was so that Jesse could find me so that I wouldn’t be alone anymore, so that I could be safe, so that I could leave.
The waiting was endless and I was filled with fear. I can still remember the cold feeling of the curb where I sat for hours, I waited. Finally some strangers searching for their daughter joined me and wrapped me in the warmth of their coats and arms around my shoulders comforting me. We sat together and cried and wondered if everyone was ok. I remember looking up at the crisp blue sky and watching the people searching for answers as I sat in silence. Finally after almost 4 hours he finally reached me and took me out of the loneliness. We walked through the Boston streets all strangely empty except for signs of the marathon covering the race course and emergency vehicles with lights flashing on every corner for blocks and blocks.
I was able to leave the marathon that day and I was safe, I was not alone, but my world was forever changed. All illusions of safety were forever shattered.
In addition to training myself physically I have been working hard on “training” myself emotionally since the Boston Marathon 2013. I have been seeing a counselor since a few months after Boston to help me through all of the confusing emotions that come along with being present at a traumatic event. I am continuing to heal and to work on overcoming my fears.
I will be running the Boston Marathon 2014. It will be one of the most challenging days for me and for many. I need to face my fears and to run again. I am working on being stronger and I am learning about myself as I continue on this emotional journey.
It is hard for me to write about these experiences but opening up and sharing this experience with you is helping me to heal. Thank you for choosing to read about my experience and for cheering me on along the way. I know now that I am not alone and with you I am stronger.