I crossed the Boston Finish Line and the world changed

It’s 10:00 am Monday, April 15, 2013 and the Boston marathon starts. At least I think it does. I’m standing in a corral for the 2nd wave of runners, far away from the start. Perfect running conditions. Light wind. Sunny skies. Not too hot for runners, not too cold for spectators. Doesn’t get any better than this. What I don’t know is it will get a lot worse.

After persisting through the 26 miles or 42 kilometers I run down Boylston and cross the finish line in 3 hours 41 minutes. Nine minutes slower than planned due to severe leg cramps, but I’m very happy. I join the throng of finishers, get a medal, and grab snacks and water. Find the bus with my clothes bag, put on a warm jacket and head for the family area to meet my wife Baiba.

Need to go back and cross over Boylston, but can’t push through all the finishers rushing towards me. So I take the long way around and hobble along back streets with other runners. After running 26 miles we’re like the walking wounded, limping along. Suddenly a massive explosion erupts. We look at each other, “That doesn’t sound good.” Then another explosion. The sound bounces around buildings so we have no idea where the blasts come from. Assume it has nothing to do with the run. “Maybe gas explosions.”

Then it’s back to normal, discussing the ups and downs of the run and how we finished. Now we’re back to Boylston and a policeman opens a gate to let us cross. I can’t believe my eyes. The street is empty. No people. Not long ago it was jammed with thousands of finishers on the way to pick up their bags. (When the explosion occurred all runners were stopped. And from here you can’t see the destruction and panic at the finish line area.) I just stand there in disbelief. Nothing makes sense. But that’s par for the course after running 26 miles. So I think, “Well, maybe they just sent the finishers down another street.” (Yeah, sure, for the first time in history.) And why are all these security and medical people running around? “Well, to help tired runners of course.”

Finally I reach the family area where runners who just finished are being reunited with family and friends. Baiba spots me and recounts what a happy, joyous scene this area has been. Until the first explosion, then instantly there was complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. When the second explosion went off there was more tension, but no panic. Now at this point everyone is back to normal, giving high-fives and celebrating. Nobody has a clue about the pain, suffering, and death just a few blocks away. Or how thousands of police, fire, medical, and security have sprung into action and are totally focused on helping the victims and checking for more bombs.

Baiba and I walk to a pub to meet our buddies from the Marathon Dynamics running club and exchange congratulations: “Wow, a personal best!” Or condolences: “I blew up on Heartbreak Hill.” Then on the pub TV we see what really blew up – and the whole mood changes. Suddenly the run is insignificant.

We watch in shock and stunned silence, unable to comprehend the devastation, injuries, and death at the finish line. Baiba sees the location of the explosion on the north side of Boylston Street and says, “I was almost there.” I go “What!!” She tells me her plan was to watch me finish and then meet me at the family area, her normal routine when she’s watching and not running. So she walked up the south side of Boylston, but couldn’t get close to the finish. However the north side (where the bomb later exploded) was less crowded. She asked a security guard, “Can I use the overhead bridge to get over there?”  He said, “No. It’s just for media. You have to walk a mile down, then cross over and walk back up the other side.” She started to walk there, but then stopped, thinking she might be late getting back to the family area to meet me. I can tell you, Baiba is very punctual. She insists we’re 3 hours early for a flight and hates to be late for anything. So she scrapped her plan to stand at the finish line. Perhaps punctuality saved her life.

Others were not so lucky. Our sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died, and our hearts go out to all those who were seriously injured in this senseless tragedy.

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Note: Previously I wrote that I crossed the finish line six minutes before the bomb exploded, a calculation based on the 4:09:43 time on the finish-line clocks when the explosion occurred. Now I’m told the clocks were showing the time for the third wave of runners, so the six-minute calculation is wrong. The bombs actually went off 42 minutes after I crossed the finish line. My story is still accurate, but I was on a different street when it happened. At the time I didn’t pay any attention to where I was because I thought, “Just gas explosions. Nothing to do with the run.” So there was no reason to remember the exact location. I apologize for the error and it has been corrected in the story above.

 

20 thoughts on “I crossed the Boston Finish Line and the world changed

  1. OMG Richard. As much as we watched in disbelief the TV coverage, it doesn’t seem as real as when you hear such a personal story. You are probably still in shock. Thank God Biaba made the choice she did. Sending our love & big hugs to you both. Linda & Roy

  2. I am so pleased that you are both oke. What a disaster. Thank goodness Baiba made the right decision. I hope your nerves have calmed down by now.

  3. Your account is so revealing and fate has kept you both safe – so grateful – breathing deeply!

  4. Thank God you are both safe and that Biaba made the right decision
    to not try and be at the finish….what a terrible cowardly act by people who have lost their humanity!!!!

  5. Thanks for the account it really makes a picture of the kind of confusion and eeriness that must have been the otherwise unbounded joyous mood , thanks Richard , glad you are both well and congratulations on a terrific time!

  6. Such frightening and somber turn of events. Glad to hear that you’re both safe and well.

  7. Richard, I can’t believe you and Baiba were actually there. Thank god you’re both safe. I can’t imagine how terrifying it all must have been.

  8. Thank-you for sharing your experience. This tragedy, this insanity causes us to gain perspective on something we rarely think about safety and freedom.

  9. Richard & Biaba, so glad to hear you were both safe.
    Indeed a terrible tragedy but the goodness of so many
    wonderful people helping in any way they can is the
    latest stories now being shared. This wasn’t just an
    attack on Boston, it was an attack on all of us.
    Thanks for your thoughts & so glad you both are safe.
    Kathy Loper

  10. Richard, Baiba.. the two of you are such an inspiration!!! Just reading about the incident shook me up, and then realizing that someone I know was actually there, made it so much more real and more scary. May the two of you run many, many more marathons and spread your contagious positive energy to make this a better world.

  11. It is so good to hear you are safe and well. I was baby sitting my 2 friends Ash and Chris Estwanik s children with my good friend Peggy who is Ash’s mom . When Chris crossed the finish line coming in 20th !! we were all so excited ..then Ash finished 78th female …Waiting to see how Cary would finish , Peggy’s bothers daughter in law , ..no word..strange we thought. Then Peggy’s bother called ..” not to worry all are safe..” !! She was coming in…and half mile to go and just behind the second blast …diverted she ran to a house to use their land line as her cell was not working. She was to join her family Spenser and their two children at the finish line …As with Baiba they were trying to get into the finish area and were not allowed…again a few seconds of fate sent them another way. Cary was able to find them with the help of a Boston policeman… All are safe as I am glad you both are also. Big Hug to you both.

  12. Glad to hear you finished the marathon, Richard. Cramps or no, I’m not doing 26 miles in less than 4 hours. And thanks for reminding us that the joy of the event didn’t stop with the bombs.

  13. Thanks for sharing. I was glued to the TV in shock and disbelief. Hard to imagine the mindset of people who can bring so much physical and emotional pain into people’s lives without a thought. . Thankfully you’re in such great shape to have such a good time, and that Baiba is so punctual. It’s nice to hear some happy stories surrounding this horribly tragic event. Congratulations on your great finish. To life, Jaimie

  14. Hey guys, I’m VERY glad to hear you are OK. I think it was too close a call for many people. We had other friends there too; he finished at 3:03 and was long gone when the bomb blew. But of course we didn’t know that till we heard from them. Thank goodness for social media. Still, so happy you both are safe.

  15. thanks richard and baiba.both of you were there and safe ,oh…..great richard ,you did in 3 hour 41 minutes .congrate and very happy to heard from you better than bbc news , i were on the trek to langtang ,many peoples thought different things ,but i were so sucked because i know you were there with some other friends , but only i get chance to mail you after back from trek . ,ohhh god bless you , very happy babia changes the ways to safe , thanks both of you friends ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>