The Day Marathoning Changed Forever

 

From the desk of the blogger: Another throwback to the beginning of the Olympiad and a day that I will never forget, though not for the right reasons. The Road to Rio has seen the world change in ways that we wish it never had.

It sounded like a clap of thunder. A deep crack rattled the windows of the restaurant like it would if a thunder storm were directly above us. The skies were clear, however, and the sounds of sirens invading the airspace of Copley Square sung a crueler tale than that of thunder and lightning.

I had recently sat down to lunch with a few of my friends at a Brazilian steakhouse across the street from the Fairmont Copley, the host hotel of the Boston Marathon. That morning two of my lunch companions and I suffered through a brutal marathon course, painfully clawing up Heartbreak Hill and her cursed sisters while battling the deepest and fastest elite wheelchair field that Boston has ever had. After long hot showers, my friends and I decided to reward and replenish our bodies with a lazy beer and the "16 cuts of meat" and endless supply of sides Brazilian steakhouses are famous for.

Our appetites were lost with the knowledge of the explosions. When we heard the "thunder clap" we immediately jumped on twitter to try and figure out what was going on. We heard the sirens, but many in the restaurant speculated that it was a transformer that exploded. Early (speaking in the span of minutes) reports coming through twitter claimed that there were "explosions" but left no details about the root cause. Then we saw the first batch of pictures, too gruesome to describe, and received a text from another racer claiming to have seen the explosion and the bodies laying everywhere.

Our plates, stacked high with filets, roasts, and ribs, were ignored as we were glued to our phones. Texts began spilling in from concerned friends who knew we were racing today. We received an email from the elite wheelchair field director of the London Marathon, in town to help facilitate our trip from Boston to London, making sure that all her racers were safe and accounted for. Once we gave up on the last clinging thoughts of finishing our lunch we gravitated to the TV in the bar where we were bombarded with video of the explosions on loop as reporters kept updating what they were learning.

Two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The explosions occurred just before three in the afternoon, a little after the 4 hour mark in the race. Early reports count 20 injured.

When we left the restaurant, what had just been a sea of people was now a zoo of lights, sirens and shouting police officers. Response was impressively quick. Medical staff working the finish line of the race, and the multitude of police officers overseeing the event were on the scene almost instantaneously. By the time we left the restaurant it seemed like every ambulance in the city had descended on Copley Square whether they were needed or not. Police had cordoned off the area and shut down surrounding cross streets. Most people's faces reflected confusion or panic, though some looked like they had no idea of what had just happened.

Kurt and Josh, my fellow competitors, went back to their rooms in the Fairmont, while Jamie and I went back to my hotel to stare at the TV in my room.

Two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The explosions were caused by bombs that were apparently dropped in garbage cans. Latest reports claim that 3 people were killed and over 30 were injured. There is a no-fly zone over Boston. People are advised to head to their homes or hotel rooms and avoid large crowds.

My afternoon was filled with worried texts and phone calls from friends, bomb squads poking through the hotel followed by a visit from SWAT and an apparent "quarantine" of the part of downtown my hotel is in. It was standing room only in the lobby of the large downtown Sheraton as people were trying to figure out what was going on and frantically trying to rearrange travel plans.

As for me, I was relatively calm. More curious and confused than worried. I was booked on an early morning flight to London for tomorrow, and as far as I had heard, that wasn't affected. The next thing I know, however, I'm told to pack my things and cram on a rented bus with the rest of my teammates. An executive decision had been made, and we were not going to get caught up in Boston. Those running the London Marathon were booked on evening flights to Baltimore and would then fly to London the following day, while everyone else was heading back to Illinois.

That is how I ended up where I am now, sitting at the kitchen table of my parent's Northern Virginia home, mind-numbingly tired though still trying to reflect on what just transpired over the past 24 hours.

Two explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The explosions were caused by bombs that were apparently dropped in garbage cans. A third explosion occurred at the JFK Library 5 miles away from the original explosions. Four (or Five) other bombs were found, unexploded. Latest reports claim that 3 people were killed and over 100 were injured. Pennsylvania Ave. was completely blocked off. London Marathon officials are scrambling to ensure they have the proper security for next weekend's race. The Boston Marathon, and marathons in general, may be forever changed. People are advised to head to their homes or hotel rooms and avoid large crowds.