Boston Marathon Interrupted: 2nd Place in the 2013 SR Race Report Challenge!

And we love reading your race reports and giving you free stuff!
And we love reading your race reports and giving you free stuff!

We hope you enjoyed Carla’s race report, our 3rd place winner of the 2013 Salty Running Race Report Challenge! We had a blast reading through the dozens of race reports you submitted. If you didn’t enter in 2013, never fear! We’ll be back with another one in 2014. Keep it in mind as you write your 2014 race reports. You never know if yours could be a big winner!

Today we’re back with our second place winner. Mary D.’s tale of a Boston gone awry made us feel like we were there in the middle of everything. Buckle up! You’re in for a great read!


She might have only started running in 2012, but now it's hard to find a non-running photo of Mary D!
She might have only started running in 2012, but now it’s hard to find a non-running photo of Mary D!

In 2012, my boyfriend at the time ran the Boston Marathon. I grew up in Boston, so flying home for a weekend was mostly what I was looking forward to. Personally, and I said it to everyone who would listen, I could not even IMAGINE running for that long. I had just started running in January of 2012, and cried through my first 10K.

Fast forward to February of 2013, and a friend posted on facebook that a local charity in Boston was looking for one more person to add to their Boston Marathon team. I quickly jumped at the chance, now an expert in running (sarcasm), and thought what better way to run my first marathon than with BOSTON?! I’d get to go home (having just moved to LA), see my friends and family, run a crazy amount of miles, and have bragging rights for days. The director went back and forth with me for a while, as someone else had the same idea I did. While I was “in a meeting” (getting my nails done) the director told me I could have the spot! All I had to do was train, meet up with the charity before the run, and oh yeah- raise $5000. Cue the mad dash to raise money, including bribing friends and family with baked goods and pleading on Facebook for months.

Alright. Race weekend. I’ve done my training, I’m not fast but I’m ready. I got to stay with a friend in Boston, and spent the days before the race visiting family. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to have any family along the course. My parents live in Wyoming, one aunt just had surgery, another was busy, my cousins all work, and my sister had to work as well. The night before the marathon, I was driving back to Boston from visiting my sister in Newport, and I called my mom crying because I was sad no one would be there. I had the support and love of my family, of course, but there’s something about having someone(s) at the finish line, cheering you on. I totally understood they were all busy/broken, but it was still hard.

Morning of the race. At 3 a.m., my alarm went off, not that it mattered. I had been awake all night, excited and nervous, scared and ready, my blood was pumping from the get-go. I made my way to the bus (with our charity team, we got fancy rock star buses with cushy seats, a bathroom, and OUTLETS. I charged my phone all the way.) Of course I stopped at Dunkin Donuts first – had to get my coffee and donut.

There was a girl sitting across from me on the bus who was also running her first marathon. She and I chatted the whole way up, realized we were about the same pace, and decided we’d run as much as we could together. I made sure not to look out the window too much or pay attention to the time passing, because I had heard that realizing how far of a drive it was could mentally effect my run. After arriving at the start line, and getting everything organized, our little group of new found friends made our way to the race bag buses. I dropped off the stuff I had brought (Red Bull, yoga pants, a sweatshirt, bananas) and held on to my phone. I had left my wallet at my friends place, because it was only a couple blocks from the finish line, so I could head there right after. I wanted my phone on me, because at this point I hadn’t learned how to run without music. I would be eternally grateful for my phone and the outlets on the bus around mile 20.

Race start. Of course, first half-mile is walking, there were so many people. Not only in the race, but watching! I had never been a part of a race with so many spectators. For Massachusetts, the Boston Marathon is on Patriots Day, which means no school, no work, no nothing except day drinking, Red Sox, and running. Siobhan and I held pace with each other, somewhere in the 10-11 min mile range, and took in all the crazy signs, spectators, and runners. We had written our last names on our shirts, so we got a TON of people yelling “GO DOOLEY AND BOONIE!!” the whole way. Around mile 17, Siobhan was feeling the hill (I had training in the Hollywood hills, so luckily this wasn’t too bad for me! Go training!) so we did a walk/run type thing for a while. The family I had babysat for for many years while in undergrad in Boston came out, and I was beyond ecstatic to have friends out there! Nevermind that the “little” girl was now almost as tall as me, it was amazing to see them and feel that rush of support.

When I caught back up to Siobhan at mile 19, she turned and said “Dooles, I just got a really weird text. My friend wrote, ‘Stop running. Explosion at finish line. THIS IS NOT A JOKE’….” We were silent for a couple seconds, and immediately started saying “ok well, we’re going to finish! i’m not stopping for anything! even if it’s rubble, we’re going to climb over it to get to the finish!” We had no idea what was happening, and though I had heard a weird sound, I had assumed it was a car backfiring.

Less than 2 minutes after she read that text to me, my phone started going crazy. Within 2 miles, I received 60+ text messages from friends, co-workers, family, bosses, and acquaintances, all worried and wanting to know if I was ok. I copy and pasted “I’m alive, I’m ok, I’m still running” to each text. I called my sister (mind you, we’re running still. the majority of my race pictures after mile 20 have me full speed, face in phone) and asked her to go on my facebook and write a post that I was ok. Runners around us, who hadn’t brought their phones, kept asking us what was going on, as we had more information than a lot of the volunteers and cops along the route. We lent them our phones so they could call their families, and continued to ask police what was going to happen. By the time we got down past Boston College onto Comm Ave (right near my first apt in Boston back in 2005), the runners were moved from the whole city-bound st over to one lane, then over to the parking spots, and eventually moved to the sidewalk, where we were running around spectators. A lot of people were crying, everyone had their faces in their phones, and no one knew what was going on. We kept running, because we didn’t know what else to do. My sister, when I had called her, told me she had skipped out of work to surprise me at the finish line. I’m FOREVER grateful to Dunkin Donuts, because my pregnant sister went to the finish line, thought “Hm, when Mary’s done, she’ll want donuts” and LEFT THE FINISH LINE. We looked at her receipt later, and realized that she paid for the donuts just as the bombs went off. It gives me chills still to think how close she and my niece were to all of that.

We kept getting snippets of information from the police. Yes, you will finish, we’re just moving you to the next street over. Ok, no, not the next street over, but you will finish. We’re having you loop around to Boston University. Ok, no, not anymore, ok now we’re going to have you go up towards MIT. No, wait, we’re not doing that….. Ok your race is done.

At almost Mile 25, just before Kenmore Square, we were completely stopped. Blockades were put up in front of the bridge, ambulances and police cars were racing past us, and the amount of confusion, fear, and anxiety on that one block was palpable. I was still getting texts by the second, and now facebook notifications as well, due to my sisters posts. The cell towers were starting to get shut down, because we didn’t know if the bombs were being set off by cell phones. Plus there was a fire at the JFK museum (later, it came out that it was just an unfortunate coincident) and basically the message that was being put out to us was “Boston is under attack, we don’t know by whom, you are not safe and are being targeted.” I stood in the middle of the blocked off intersection, shocked. When I saw my sister walking/waddling up to me, I couldn’t help but cry. A lot. Bawl, really.

Thank goodness for running friends!
Thank goodness for running friends!

We walked/limped/waddled over to my cousin’s restaurant next to Fenway and tried to sit and eat, but we had no idea what was going on. We ordered food and I just couldn’t eat it. I was cold, exhausted, shaking, and scared. We were still in the scary zone, the area where it was all happening. Ambulances raced back and forth between the hospitals and finish line. I had no clothes, no flip flops, and I remember one of my first questions to Clare, in between my sobs, was “Can I still put my 26.2 sticker on my car??” (Thoughts were not happening clearly, at that point.)

Luckily, we walked to REI, bought me some clothes, and walked across the Charles River to where our sister-in-law could pick us up. It was as close as she could get, and it was about 3 miles away. Walking over Storrow Drive was such a weird experience, I had done it many times before, but this time the inbound lane had absolutely no cars. The outbound lane was bumper to bumper traffic, with everyone trying to get out of the city.

The rest of the night is a haze, watching the news over and over again, eating a little food when reminded, and trying to sleep. Thank God for my sister, as she handled everything. Called and changed my flights from the next morning to a couple days later out of a different airport, rented a car to get us back to her house, talked to our parents for me, and supporting me as best as she knew how. With ice cream and cake. (I’m telling you, she’s amazing.)

The next day, we drove down to get my runner’s bag. The bag pick up was outside my cousin’s other restaurant, but surrounded by heavy tanks, and lots of military in full SWAT/bomb squad outfits. When they brought my bag out, along with a medal, put the medal on me and said “Congratulations on running the Boston Marathon”, I cried again. Siobhan and I had split up when they had ended our race, so that she could go find her family. We immediately friended each other on facebook, and offered support throughout the coming weeks and months. We still keep in touch today.

While she can’t make it back to Boston this year, she officially joined Club 26.2 in October at the Long Beach Marathon and has run a bunch of half marathons and shorter races this year. Next up: a 50k and a 50 miler next year! Go Mary!

If I could afford to run the Marathon again, I would. They opened it up to the runners who were between the halfway point and finish line when everything happened, but the race costs, plus travel, plus shopping (of course), that weekend would end up being around $1200, and I just can’t afford it. I love Boston, and I will run the marathon again. I stopped running for a couple weeks and saw a therapist, it honestly was a struggle for me to find joy in running and not be filled with anxiety and fear each time I ran. I can’t imagine what it was like for those right there when it happened, and I’m very grateful and lucky that I was where I was, and not running the pace at which I had trained. I still get choked up when writing about it all, and I think the best thing to come out of all of this, for me, was the love and support I received from EVERYONE. My facebook page had never seen so much love, I was getting texts and phone calls from friends I hadn’t heard from in a long time, and it helped me to re-appreciate all the people and blessings I have in my life.

So, a little long, and not a typical race report, but it’s the first one I think of for 2013, and definitely inspires and motivates every half-marathon and marathon I’ve run since then. Thanks for reading!

Salty Running boss and mother of 3 little ones with PRs of 3:10:15 (26.2), 1:25:59 (13.1) and 18:15 (5k). I love to write about running culture, mental training, and fitting in a serious running habit with the rest of a busy life.

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  1. Wow, so glad you, Siobhan, your sister and your niece are okay! Thank you so much for sharing your experience too. I wasn’t there, but this story and others choke me up every time. Keep on running and best of luck with your upcoming races!

  2. Boston stories are always so moving – I got chills thinking about your sister there, ducking out to buy doughnuts and saving her life and that of her baby. Great report.