I have been writing and re-writing this blog in my mind, trying to decide where to start with the events that took place last Monday (April 15th, 2013). How do I capture everything I felt, saw, and now dwell on from home? This post merely scratches at the surface of the race and the events that took place post-race. If you want even more details, let's do coffee. After years of dreaming about what this day would be like, I can honestly say it was nothing like I had imagined. So here is a recap of Boston Marathon Monday (feel free to skip the race recap if you're not interested).
Trading my soft blankets and abundance of pillows for calve sleeves and arm warmers, I anxiously prepared to leave for what would be the longest day of my entire life. I hopped on the hotel shuttle to get to the T (train). We, the runners, did what all marathoners do when we're nervous, we talk about the number of marathons we've run, and how we've trained for this one, somehow hoping to convince ourselves that we were ready to tackle the Boston Marathon. I met my training buddy, Aileen, downtown, and we began the long bus ride to Hopkinton. Knowing the marathon course was 26.2 miles, I was surprised by how long the bus ride took. We exited the bus and began the trek to Athlete's Village. The clout around Athlete's Village was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I felt like an Olympian. I half expected trumpets to be announcing our arrival. We did our last minute race preparations, you know, bathroom stops and body glide application, and made our way to our starting corral.
I remember the gun going off at 10:20, and before I knew it, I was crossing the start line. I was running the Boston Marathon! I had been told one, no 100 too many times to take the first 4 miles easy because it was a rigorous downhill, so I did just that. The pounding of my quads as my feet struck the pavement reminded me to hold back. I knew I needed reserves to get through the four hills at miles 16-21. Aileen and I started together and at some point we lost each other. I was alone in a sea of 23,000 other runners. I felt free. I felt alive. I felt inspired. I reminded myself that less than 5 months ago I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl, Reagan Elyse. I told myself this marathon may hurt more than labor (I still haven't decided which was worse). I was reminded of the generous people who supported my fundraising efforts to fight human trafficking (https://ventureexpeditions.missionsconnex.com/BreeWilliamson). I was reminded of my husband, who helped me complete my training on very little sleep with a newborn. And so I ran. And I didn't stop running. At one point I ran past Team Hoyt-the father son duo (if you don't know about Team Hoyt, look them up on youtube, you'll be inspired, I promise). I was overcome with emotion as I saw the father pushing his full grown son. I clapped, teared up, cheered for him, and continued running. People told me your arms get tired at Boston because there are so many kids who want to give high fives. They were right. I playfully high-fived kids when I could. At mile 11, the stomach ache set in. Dang, I've never had digestive issues during a marathon. Why now? And why at mile 11? I figured maybe if I squeezed my cheeks and tried to ignore it, it would go away. No such luck.
Everyone talks about Heartbreak Hill at mile 21. Nobody talks about the three giant hills leading up to Heartbreak Hill-those three hills are what make that fourth hill a heartbreaker! But I reminded myself that I didn't come to Boston to walk. I came to Boston to do work. So I ran. At about mile 21.5 I could no longer ignore the fact that I needed to go to the bathroom. I bee-lined it to an empty port-o-potty and bee-lined it back on the course. I felt so much better and wished I would have stopped to go sooner. Here's one thing I learned while on the course--everyone wants to be kissed. I saw so many signs reading, "Kiss me I'm Venezuelan", "Kiss me I'm a BC student", "Kiss me I'm single", "Kiss me I'm a runner", "Kiss me I'm Irish". Does anyone really stop to kiss these spectators?! Anyway, I digress. The miles were flying by, and soon enough I was turning onto Boylston Street. I looked at my watch and realized, "OMG, I'm going to freaking PR!" I gave it my last push and crossed the line in 3:29:22--a new PR. The hardest marathon course I had ever run, less than 5 months after a baby, and I PR'd. I cried as I slowly hobbled to get water. I had completed one of my biggest dreams, and done it well! I'm pretty sure pure joy was pumping through my veins.
The volunteers continued to lead us through the finish line to get our snacks, heat sheets, and medals. I waited in line to retrieve my drop bag, and as I was making my way to the family area I was stopped by medic personnel. I was told that I needed to go to the medic tent as my face was purple (from being cold, and maybe a little in shock). I told her I was fine, and just needed to find my people so I could go home and change, but she said no. She instructed another medic to get a wheelchair for me. I pleaded with her telling her I was fine, but that if I had to go to the medic tent, I could walk. Ignoring my protests, a wheelchair swept me off my feet, and the medic went running with me to the tent. I was checked in, my vitals were taken, and I was soon slurping hot salt water (yum, right?!), as the chicken broth was not gluten free. I believe I stayed in this tent for about 25 minutes before I was released. While I was in the tent, two blocks from the finish line, I heard the boom. It sounded like a giant canon. Too be honest, I didn't think too much of it--it was Patriot's Day--I was in Boston. It seemed only fitting for some reenactment to be taking place to entertain spectators.
Thinking very little of the boom, I moved on to meet my party. Aileen and I found each other and watched ambulance after ambulance fly by. What was going on? I thought maybe someone had collapsed at the finish line. Whatever happened, it wasn't good. We were still waiting for my friend Shannon, and Aileen's husband, sister, and sister's boyfriend to meet us. Shannon called me to say a bomb had gone off and they were forced to get off the T. A bomb? What was going on? A nearby runner piped in that a bomb had gone off nearby and there was a lot of blood. I pulled out my phone to text Jeremy and my parents, and I had 67 text messages, and numerous missed calls. Ambulances continued to scream by as we waited for Aileen's husband to meet up with the rest of us. I texted Jeremy and my parents to let them know I was safe but instructed them not to call me because I didn't want my battery to die. Phone service was cut off, and my battery continued to dwindle. Law enforcement was urging everyone to get out of the city. We still didn't have Aileen's husband, and we couldn't call him. The T was shut down, taxis were scarce, and people were anxiously scuffling out of the city. Shannon and I weren't able to get to our hotel, so we walked with Aileen and her family to their hotel about two miles away. Walking might be overstating it, Aileen and I were hobbling. So we hobbled, staring at the S.W.A.T. team, armored vehicles, brushing shoulders with FBI personnel, and trying to figure out the best route to their hotel. Minus the screaming sirens and police shouting instructions over loud speakers, the city was still filled with an eerie silence. Not many pedestrians truly knew what was going on. We still didn't know the full extent of what happened. We made it back to Aileen's hotel, turned on the TV and watched the replay of the bombings going off at the finish line. I couldn't believe that just happened. We were right there. I had crossed that same finish line. People were dead. People were hurt. My phone started working again and I called Jeremy and my parents to let them know I was two miles out of the city. Tears stung my cheeks as I showered, replaying everything in my mind.
Those tears continued this past week every time I thought about what happened. My heart grieves for those who lost loved ones, those who lost limbs, and those who lost hope in humanity. My heart grieves for those who are responsible. People have asked me if I'm tired of sharing my story with everyone who asks, and the answer is no. I imagine people asking me what I experienced because they want to put themselves there with me, and walk with me through this. And I think that's what Jesus did. He met people where they were at, and walked with them. So thank you for asking, and thank you for walking with me. Thank you for allowing me to talk through it all. This blog post feels void of emotion. I think I may still be somewhat numb to all that took place.
Now I am back at home, away from everything, but not really. I don't think the experience will ever go away. I think I will carry this experience with me forever. I'm not struggling with fear, I'm struggling with confusion. Now that the bombers have been captured, I'm left wrestling with the dichotomy of love and justice. What does justice look like for everyone involved? At the same time I look to scripture. In the book Love Does, by Bob Goff he says, "I don't think Bible verses were meant to be thrown like grenades at each other. They were meant for us to use to point each other toward love and grace and invite us into something much bigger." I think he's right. To throw Scripture like grenades would make us no different from the marathon bombers themselves.
Everything Jesus did was motivated by love--I love that about Him. So how do we, as Christians, being motivated by love, respond to this tragedy? How do love and justice work together in God's Kingdom? I know that Jesus went to the cross, even for people He knew would never love him back. That being said, what should our response be? I don't have that answer yet. I'm still processing. But here are some things I do know. I know that Jesus was motivated by love, I know that Jesus has called me to follow Him, and do what He did. I'm just trying to figure out what that looks like...