I was limping along the last mile of the course when police motorcycles zoomed east on the westbound lane of Commonwealth Avenue. I looked at the woman next to me and said that there must be a runner down. After a few more steps, we came to a small crowd of runners who had been stopped on Commonwealth just before the Massachusetts Avenue overpass. Nobody knew what was going on. Perhaps a someone had had a heart attack—but there were too many cop cars flying by to care for just one person. The runners carrying smartphones quickly spread the word that there was an explosion at the finish line.
Of course, all of our families would be waiting for us there, and I immediately thought about my husband, Jimmy, who had already finished. I asked the woman next to me if I could use her phone to send a text (calls, she said, weren’t working).
Jimmy’s all-clear came relatively quickly ("Thank god you weren’t a mile faster," he wrote). The man sitting next to me wasn’t as fortunate. He sat with his head in his hands as he waited for a return text.
As it turned out, Jimmy had also been lucky: He told me that he had been waiting at the finish for a while. He'd gone in search of water just as the bomb went off.
We didn’t know at that point how bad the blast was, or what had caused it. News of the explosion was trickling in from spectators who had walked into our crowd of runners searching for family members. The spectators screamed names over and over. A little girl cried as she made her way through the crowd with her dad, looking for her mom.
We were all still waiting for race officials to let us pass under Massachusetts Avenue so we could finish our race by jogging through the famous chicane memorialized on Boston Marathon t-shirts: “Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.”
The officials didn’t know what was going on. They told us to sit tight. Eventually one of them held up a loudspeaker while a man who was identified as the police chief spoke through it with an update: They weren’t sure exactly what had happened. We were told we'd be brought water and space blankets to keep us warm as we waited to finish the race. Finally, after we’d waited for about 20 minutes, they told us it was over.
They let us walk under Massachusetts Avenue, but instead of turning right on Hereford, we were forced to turn left. Several of us took one look down Hereford, peeking at that last turn onto Boylston—the final stretch just out of reach. We had no idea what horrors lay around the corner.
Erin Beresini writes Outside's Fitness Coach column.