Tag: explosions

Let’s Do This The Right Way

Guest blog by Michael Robertson

boston marathon blue ribbon png 4.16.13It has been truly remarkable seeing the reactions of Bostonians, and non-Bostonians, in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings. The stories of people helping people under the worst of circumstances are countless and inspiring. Everyone is looking for a way to honor those in the bombing and, in many respects, the day itself, but we have got to do it in the right way.

In the rush to put together commemorative events, including running/walking the last 5 miles of the course (which I understand has now been postponed), rerunning the entire Boston Marathon course, and walking in the last mile, I strongly feel that the best of intentions and noblest of thoughts have obscured careful consideration of the reality of the situation we are faced with. As I understand it, the Boston Police Department has asked that these events not take place right now. They are not city-sanctioned and do not have the proper permits. This would be a concern for events of the planned magnitude at any time and it is especially worrying at this time. The investigations are obviously still continuing, there are police officers and soldiers with machine guns lining our streets and guarding our hotels. Let’s not take their focus away from their all-important task by crowding the streets with thousands, or even dozens of people, however well-intentioned they may be.

I’m not saying don’t go out and run/walk. I’m not even saying don’t run as a group. What I am saying is please reconsider any sort of mass activity along the marathon course and certainly in the vicinity of Copley Square. I am 100% certain there will be an event in the near future that has the support of the BPD and the City. Be patient, keep your spirits up and keep supporting each other.  The time will come for us all to band together and show our support for the fallen, the wounded, and the thousands who could not cross the finish line on Patriot’s Day.  Let’s just make sure that, when that time comes, we do so the right way.


Editor’s Note: The outpouring of support from the community in the wake of this tragic event is incredible. So many people are mobilizing to show support in a variety of ways and it’s very uplifting to witness it all. As well intentioned as these gatherings on the marathon course are, it’s still just too soon.

We all want swift justice here and the best way to do that is to give the hardworking law enforcement officials their space. Bringing a mass of people into Boston this weekend will be doing just the opposite of that and will most likely further stress an already over-stressed group of people.

The closer one gets to the epicenter of it all, the more caution and consideration that’s needed. There are plenty of other ways to show your support and I hope people will consider those other options, at least until some normalcy returns to Boston.

You can do something as simple as wearing marathon gear, there will be various fundraisers held all over, you can donate online, City Sports is organizing runs, even UMass football has gotten involved and invited runners to finish on their field during a special ceremony.

There’s also going to be a big fundraising running event hosted by the Western Mass Distance Project at Stanley Park in Westfield, MA this Sunday. Details for that will be passed along as they continue to develop, both here and on their own website.

There seems to be some sentiment out there that runs along the Boston course need to happen now to show that the marathon is not dead. I have a problem with that line of thinking. First of all, the marathon can’t be killed. Second of all, people are more motivated for it now than ever, which means it’s more alive than ever. The marathon is a special distance that requires a lot of respect, so the best way to show that the marathon isn’t dead is to respect the race: put your nose to the grindstone and get out there and make Boston 2014 your mission. By steering clear of Boston (specifically Back Bay) we’d be showing law enforcement some respect, while also still paying tribute to those affected.

Thank you for being active and showing your support, but please be considerate of all the elements involved.

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Monday: Triumph Amidst the Tragedy

Guest blog by Rob Gomez

When Eric first asked me to write a guest blog for Level Renner, I balked. My account of the events that unfolded on Monday, April 15th, 2013 seemed very insignificant. The tragedy that occurred on Boylston St has been recounted so thoroughly and from so many different viewpoints, and the impact that this tragedy will have on the Boston Marathon has been prognosticated very eloquently by hundreds of writers and bloggers.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that every person involved in Monday’s events should share their story in order to help our tightly-knit running community understand, heal and grow together. And of course, no story of Monday’s events is complete without including the backdrop of the marathon itself – that’s what we all came together to celebrate in the first place, and that’s what will continue to bring us together in the future. My story is no more important than anyone else’s, but sharing it will help me understand, heal and grow.

I can best recount my day on Monday as a series of sharp moments protruding abruptly from a cloudy lake of emotions. Here’s a timeline of those moments.

Rob, before horrifying the co-ed (bandana still on his head). Courtesy of Scott Mason.

Rob, before horrifying the co-ed (bandana still on his head). Courtesy of Scott Mason.

3:55 AM: I’m up and I’m not going back to sleep. The gears are turning in my head.

5:25 AM: Choking down the last eight ounces of beet juice. I’ve been pounding this stuff for two weeks straight with the promise that the influx of nitrates will improve my efficiency in oxygen consumption. It’s almost not worth it.

7:05 AM: Kirby has to pull over on I-90 because I have to piss so badly. Good to know that my body is ramping into race mode.

7:45 AM: Grabbing some duct tape for my torn gear bag from a very nice couple in Hopkinton that’s just handing out free stuff to anyone who needs it. Their daughters are doing cartwheels and playing catch in between handing out band-aids. Maybe this was a bit of foreshadowing for the kind of goodwill that so many people showed later in the day.

8:35 AM: Sitting on my throne of cardboard next to Lauren in the Athlete’s Village, propped up against a tent pole, listening to “Recover” by CHRVCHES. Jeff loves this song. I’m reminded of how he got me back into running. I’m out here for him today.

9:55 AM: The guy next to me wonders why his 2:22 at St. George didn’t get him into the Elite corral. I keep my mouth shut.

10:15 AM: So I’m still only a few steps off the lead pack and we’re almost three miles in. Yeah, this isn’t aggressive at all.

10:35 AM: I need to slow down.

10:40 AM: Screw it, I’m not slowing down.

10:55 AM: I’m running through the center of Natick, spectators three deep it seems, and there’s absolutely no one around me. Naturally, I throw my hands up to get a better reception. I’m a sucker for a big crowd.

11:10 AM: I throw my American flag bandana at an unsuspecting Wellesley co-ed. Her expression is of pure disgust.

11:25 AM: Vassallo looks as giddy as a schoolgirl as he jogs with me for a few paces and offers me Gu (which I should have taken). I’m out here for him today, too.

11:35 AM: Just stay relaxed on the hills. Stay RELAXED. A few more miles and you can cruise the rest of the way.

11:45 AM: And there go the wheels. I do not want to take another step. Wow that happened quickly.

12:05 PM: I want to be done with this sh*t.

12:20 PM: I’m looking for my parents and I can’t see them.

12:22 PM: Holy crap, I might not even PR.

12:25 PM: Denise Robson finishes just ahead of me. She turns around, gives me a big hug, and we stumble forward together for a minute. I promise to see her at Cabot in just over a month.

12:40 PM: It feels like I’m walking on stilts. My parents are trying to get from Boylston to Stuart to meet me without the help of a smartphone. A random group of Latino adolescents want their picture with me.

1:45 PM: I give my dad a hug before he leaves, a good hug. We never really hug anymore, just bro-hugs and good-natured razzing.

2:30 PM: I decide to depart the Marriott for the Cheesecake Factory with everyone else in the room instead of sticking to my original plan of meeting Mary and Co. at the Cactus Club. I feel bad about it but text Mary to tell her I’ll make it down there shortly.

3:00 PM: While waiting for a seat at Cheesecake I notice people flooding, running, sprinting down the Prudential Plaza escalators and stairs to the exits. Looks like a good idea to follow suit.

3:05 PM: People everywhere. Emergency vehicles are flying into the square. No one really knows what the hell is going on. Everyone is wearing confused and anxious expressions. Steve says he heard two sounds in succession that sounded like a tailgate slamming down. I see one woman on the phone, bawling. We walk away from the square with no destination in mind.

3:10 PM: I call my mom. She and my dad are already on a bus headed back to Portland. I tell her I have no idea what has happened but that they’ll probably hear about it and that I’m fine.

3:15 PM: Finally getting word through Twitter. BREAKING: Explosion near the finish line. And Jon and I were headed back towards the Cactus Club.

3:25 PM: My phone is constantly vibrating now. It seems like the most logical thing to do is to head back to the hotel.

3:30 PM: I pass a couple of white guys verbally assaulting a person that appears to be of Middle Eastern descent. Can’t believe this is happening already.

4:00 PM: The NBC Boston channel keeps showing the blast video over and over. I can’t get through to anyone.

4:30 PM: Mary’s at MIT. Sheri is under lockdown in the Fairmont with Al and her kids. I’m so thankful that Juliette isn’t here in the middle of all this with me. Lauren tells me via text to meet her at her sister’s place on O Street and we can catch a ride home from there.

4:45 PM: There’s a drunk guy giving some firefighters crap for not letting him through the barricade in front of the Marriott.

5:15 PM: Walking next to a young couple pushing their 3-month-old back to their car in South Boston. They offer to give myself and Jon a ride the rest of the way to O Street. This kindness is so encouraging on a day like this. Gives me hope.

5:55 PM: Juliette calls me and her voice shakes as she tells me she’s watching the news about the “Boston Bomb”. I finally cry.

7:30 PM: On the way home with Lauren and her parents. Lauren looks a little washed out from the events of the day but sitting next to her brings a sense of calm to me. An ambulance merges onto I-93 right next to us, sirens on. I’m so numb to sirens at this point that I make no effort to turn my neck to look at it.

11:15 PM: Slouched over motionless on the couch at home, phone put away, the bulb over the stove the only source of light. I can hear the peepers from the pond across the street making a racket. Sweetest racket I’ve heard all day. I resolve then and there to run Boston in 2014.

The night before the race, Rob and Seth Hasty invited me to come by their room to hang out for a little bit. It was good to see them and talk shop a bit the night before the big race. Rob told me about his beet juice regiment and even gave me a “shot” of it. It reminded me of being a college freshman all over again, with the “wise” senior giving me a shot of Jack. I just barely choked it down and the aftertaste was brutally indescribable. Kudos to Rob for going the extra effort to squeeze the most out of his race.

I could be wrong here, but Rob scored himself a nine second PR by running a 2:22:53 on Monday. Rob may be too humble to divulge that on his own, but one of the reasons why I wanted Rob’s account here was because I know he ran very well. It might not have been good enough to make all that beet juice worth it, but a PR is a PR. Like Rob said, “every person involved in Monday’s events should share their story”, and in his own unique experience you can see the ugliness (racial profiling) and the beauty (strangers lending a helping hand) that was present in the aftermath. The tragedy seems to be dominating the headlines but we need to find the triumphant stories within and tell the stories of the successful races as well.

Thanks once again to Scott Mason for the photo. More Boston Marathon photos can be found on his website.

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Shocked, Angered, Sad

Guest blog by Tom Derderian, president USATF-NE

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 11.32.06 AMLike nearly everyone touched by the bombings at the finish of the Boston Marathon we are shocked, angered, and sad. We are shocked because we are the governing body of sport, recreation, and essentially, play. People compete in the marathon and follow the race as something aside from the horrors of the world, but are now part of those enormities. We are angry because people have been hurt and murdered for reasons that cannot possibly justify the crimes, and we are sad because of the pain and loss in our community. Most officers and employees of USATF-NE were at the marathon. Some worked as volunteers at the finish line so were quite close to the explosions. Others were racing or watching. We are relieved that none were hurt. At USATF we have held safety in the utmost importance in conducting events when we issue sanctions. As we wish the best recovery to those injured and their families we will spend the coming months thinking hard about how to make our sports the safe and joyous events they are intended to be.

Firsthand Account from 25.5

Guest blog by Anne London

Monday was a very scary day in Boston. I took a half day and walked with Brian across the river to our friend’s house to join them at their annual party to cheer on the runners. They live at mile 25.5, about 0.5 mile (800m) from the finish line. They have a balcony where you can see the runners go by. I was documenting my day:


We were down on the street looking for a teammate of mine when we heard the blasts. We didn’t realize they had been explosions; you don’t think you’re going to hear anything like that…we assumed it was a big truck hitting a pot hole (we have terrible streets here) or fireworks, or a mock cannon for celebration. About 60 seconds later EVERY police officer went running towards the finish line – on foot, motorcycle, car, horse…something big had happened.

Right in front of us, they started stopping the runners;


I immediately went on twitter on my phone and saw that a friend (who lives AT the finish line) had written an update. We then knew it was bad. We started telling the other spectators around us, and everyone was using their phones to try to get in touch with people they knew were at the finish line.


The runners were starting to hear the news and getting really upset. I have been as tired as they are; at mile 25.5 (of 26) you have NOTHING left in the gas tank and are physically and emotionally DONE. People were crying and going into shock. We ran back upstairs and were bringing down buckets and cups of warm water, it was pretty cold (the temp had dropped to 45F/7C). We spent an hour walking through the runners, who were just corralled on the street, not knowing where to go, giving them water and texting their families. The phone lines were shut off (to prevent more bombs from detonating) so info could only get out via text.

An example of the messages being sent out amongst the chaos at the moment.

The runners started to clear out, I guess they were being brought to shelters to await further instructions, so we went upstairs to watch the news. More bombs were allegedly being found, so we were on lockdown. We had some of our friends who had been running in with us, we had brought them inside to get them warm and dry and fed, but it was stressful because initially there were other friends that we could not find.

Our block was cleared by police at about 7:45pm, so we started the walk home back to Cambridge (see photos below). It was eerily quiet on the streets, other than FBI and police. I was so thankful I was with my husband and had decided to go – he had always planned on going over but I wasn’t going to take the day…ultimately I decided that it was too exciting of a day to be cooped up in the lab, I know you all understand. But if he had gone and I was here not knowing where he was and not able to get in contact, that would have been very tough.

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Yesterday was a terrible day for Boston and the running community. What puts it in a very real perspective is that the bombs went off at 4 hours 10 minutes into running the marathon – my past times have been 3:56 and 4:22 in 2011 and 2009. This attack directly affected my teammates and their families, and I am so thankful that everyone that I care about is okay, just a little shaken.

I asked Anne if there was any special significance to the Tweet she chose to add to her account and this was her response:

I just went online and that was the first tweet I saw that gave us any sort of clarity (I don’t know T&R outside of a meeting long ago, but I listen to the show daily, I was trying to put it in perspective for my Swiss colleagues).

Twitter is the fastest way to get real time info, and in this case it proved to be true. Police started running and I went on twitter. They hadn’t even stopped the runners yet. It was chilling to realize that it was more than just a truck crash or fireworks.

Rich (of T&R) lives in the marathon sports building, I heard his account on the air today. People were blown into the lobby of his building. His account was terrifying.

This has affected so many of us and in different ways. Now’s the time to lean on our community and to help each other get through this. As you can see from the pic below, Anne came up with a way for her to show some solidarity and made a few people smile along the way.

Thanks for sharing this with us, Anne. We’ll get through this, and we’ll be stronger than ever. We owe it to those affected most by it.

On a side not I’d like to address one of the statements made in this post just for clarity. Anne refers to the phone lines being shut off, but according to CNN that wasn’t the reason for the break in communication. The system was just overwhelmed. I left her original text intact because it was a widespread belief at the time that cell phones could possibly trigger more explosions and that they were shut down. While we’re presenting first hand accounts, stories and other information about the tragedy it’s also a good time to clear up any misconceptions about what happened (as best we can).

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