I am not too sure on how to follow up with what has happened at the marathon. My instinct tells me to share the journey that was experienced yesterday and the beautiful moments that stood out before and after the explosions occurred. Right now, we need to hold on to the beautiful moments of yesterday and parts of life, so that we can not lose sight of better days to come. Obviously, it is going to take many of us quite some time to find those days. Many countries have been facing acts of this recent caliber in the U.S. for centuries, and we need to turn towards them for guidance and finding good faith in society.
The beginning of the day was beautiful. I woke up with a bit of anxiety, threw myself together and jumped in a cab to get to the loading area for transportation to the starting line. I met Caitlyn at the buses and we fell in line with thousands of other people. Great conversations were had with strangers and people were truly connecting. It was a marvelous sight.
The ride was long, filled with energy and many people who needed to use the bathroom well before we got to the starting grounds in Hopkington. It reminded me of last year, when I nearly urinated on the bus. Many people got off the bus before we pulled into the parking lot. Caitlyn and I may have been part of that group. Possibly.
We took our time in the morning and enjoyed the atmosphere. Everyone was excited, people were friendly and there was a lot going on. Caitlyn and I sprawled out on a blanket and spent the morning getting our heads in the zone. Putting our bib numbers on was quite the experience as well. I stretched out, had some nutrients and before we knew it, our wave was being called.
The run was incredible. So many people shouted out to us in support along the route. Certainly, having my name on my shirt helped folks with this process, but something tells me many of these supporters have seen or read about my journey in recent media. The cheering, at some points, was almost overwhelming. I tried as hard as I could, as my energy depleted, to acknowledge this and show my deepest gratitude. Some of the most moving moments were when people shouted that I could do it, I could finish. The children were also adorable. One shouted out “Josh, do you like bananas?” and another group of children shouted out and asked us if we would like M&Ms. I know Caitlyn loves chocolate, but I do not think that would have been a good choice for nutrition. Horrific stomach cramps began to settle in around mile 11 and I had never felt something so painful before in my life. All I could do was alternate walking with running. We stopped in at a medical tent and I asked if they knew what could possibly be wrong. The only thing they could offer was for me to be looked over my another medical team and step out of the race. The pain was shooting in a vertical fashion, over 6 inches or so along the right side of my stomach and it felt like an ice pick was going to pierce through my torso. I immediately told them we would keep going and that we would be safe. The inspiring cheers and comments from watchers and fellow runners kept us going.
It was touch and go over the next 8.5 miles. Finally, we made it to Caitlyn’s family just after the 19 mile mark and stopped in to chat with them. I had met both of her parents before but was introduced to her sister, Emily. She has a wonderful family. They had bottles of water and bananas waiting for us. We talked for a little bit and then pushed on. Then, everything changed.
We were nearing the 20 mile marker when my sister, Kate, called me. She was at the finish line and had left the VIP seats just 10 minutes before the first explosion. All she could tell me was that there had been an explosion, sirens were going off and people were running away. I told her to get far away. We then got off the phone. Caitlyn and I then ran to a water station and asked if they had heard anything. They had not, so I told them off the phone call I just had with my sister. We moved further up the route and then other people on the course started receiving phone calls. The two of us stepped off to the side of the course and collected ourselves and tried to get in touch with our family. Cell phone service was nearly down, as so many people were now trying to call one another. We were able to text, but that also seemed limited.
A sweet, wonderful woman named Emily offered us some juice, a couple of law chairs to sit in and an invitation into her house. We thankd her and said that we were alright for the moment. Caitlyn and I hung out and kept trying to contact family. Her family had just taken off for down town after we saw them only 5 minutes earlier. We were feeling many emotions.
Emily came back outside with her two sweet children and insisted we come into her house. We accepted and walked into a lovely and warm home. We sat down, used her land line and were able to get in touch with Caitlyn’s family. Emily’s husband, Ben, gave directions as to where we were and how they could pick us up. For the mean time, Emily, Ben and their two lovely children gave us food, drink and comfort. It was so kind and beautiful of them to do such a thing. Surely, we would all have done the same for others, but in such a moment, to have such a small piece of kindness, meant the world.
I spoke on the phone with a few contacts and interviewed via Skype for “Right This Minute” about the marathon yesterday. Interestingly, so many people have been asking me how I feel about not finishing the marathon. Yes, I have goals. However, goals can quickly change depending on what the context is. I knew we would have made it yesterday, but focusing on safety is much more important. Our goals right now are to support one another and come together. That’s the only way we can survive this. That is what Emily, Ben and their two children did for us yesterday.
My biggest concern became making sure that my sister and friends were safe. I came very close to losing more people in my life, and came freakishly close to losing the last of my immediate family with in a matter of 11 months. I know I do not need to go into detail on what this felt like, and still feels like. We’re alright, though.
Yesterday was horrific, but there many moments of incredibly beauty and love from so many people. I felt this directed towards Caitlyn and I and we directed it towards others as well. We all need to hold on, support those impacted by this and rise above the destruction. We have an opportunity to make good choices, so I say let us to just that.
Hug and kiss all those you love today, and do it every day. Do not take life for granted. The least we can do, for an innocent death or harm, is honor it by being better people and doing better things. To some, that may sound like fluff. I just ask you to think about it and consider applying that meaning to your own life. I know what it means for me.
Next year, the Boston Marathon will look very different. What I do know is that its spirit will only be stronger. Mine will only be stronger and I will run again. I look forward to the next steps of this journey and holding on to the ride. Hold on to the beautiful things in life and let us all do what we can to support those impacted by this event.