Boston Marathon: A Runner Reports Her Experience

Posted 04.17.13

Dr. Alison Seely, a veterinarian from Beachburg, Ontario, had a close encounter with the terror explosion -- the bombs went off 50 meters behind her not long after she had crossed the finish line. Her husband, Dr. Kevin Mahoney, a chiropractor, was in Boston with her, although not at the finish line. [Full disclosure: Kevin is my son, Ali my daughter-in-law.)

BEACHBURG, ONTARIO | The [Boston Marathon] race itself was pretty marvelous. I have never seen such crowd support. The entire 26 miles was littered with water cups because in the gaps between water stations there were children offering up lemonade, water, orange slices, and twizzlers.

When children and families thinned out, there were college students (some in bikinis) offering beer, kisses, and compliments. My temporary Canadian tattoos garnered lots of "Go Canada " or "Go blue shirt " when the tattoos were not visible.

I saw Kev at mile 23 and was able to get a quick kiss and encouragement (I had not yielded to the college kiss offers). That left 3 miles of hard running to bring me in narrowly under the 3:55 qualifying time for a 2014 Boston --- though without having set my watch at the beginning, I wasn't sure if I had missed it by seconds or not.

Delighted to beat 4 hours as I had predicted a 4:15 with my longest run (off skis) being 18 k outdoors 3 weeks ago. I was greeted by a throng of smiling volunteers who awarded me the medal, draped me with the space blanket, and gave me food and water.

Eight minutes later had me groggily putting on my warm clothes, around 50 m from the finish line, holding on to another runner's arms so that I could flex to put my legs through the pant legs without bending my cramped quads.

We heard a huge bang, loud enough to hurt the ears, and saw a massive amount of billowing smoke. I said " Nasty time to fire a cannon " and she agreed. Her phone rang and she chatted and hung up shocked, telling me that a friend at Mile 25 was told the race was finished because of the explosion and that he wasn't being allowed to continue.

Then we started hearing the sirens of ambulances. We all started moving away from the finish line in a bewildered mass.

I hunted down a subway station and descended and was then told it was being closed. We were directed to another station around one mile further east. I borrowed a cell phone from a better-equipped runner and called the hotel to let Kevin know I was fine. He hadn't heard and had been googling Boston qualifying races for his potential race. He did let me know that I had qualified for Boston again.

I found the next subway station which was blocked by a swat team with the biggest guns I had ever seen off the big screen. Rumours were now circulating that the explosion had been a bomb.

Kept walking. No clue where I was at this point, and asked for directions to the Charles River. Our hotel overlooked scullers and the Boston University Boat House and I figured I could find my way if I crossed the river. The roads were full of police cars, emergency vehicles, and ambulances, all with sirens blasting non stop.

I had to wend my way carefully around people because they were all fully engaged in texting and chatting -- no one really looking where they were going. I got across the river and started the long walk west. I saw hordes of runners shivering without their post race clothing, no medals, no finish line. I gave my blanket and gloves to one freezing girl.

Got back to the hotel 3 hours after my race ended. Kevin met me for the last 500 meters, and would have been earlier but was madly reassuring all the panicked emails coming in.

The next day (Tuesday) on the plane home I read the full stories of the victims of the attacks. So awful -- targeting the generous spectators, and volunteers. I keep seeing the faces of those who draped the blanket over me, gave me my medal, cheered at the end -- perhaps among the three dead and 160 injured. I had spoken with a pair of Alberta sisters who were eagerly anticipating the finish line where their daughters and sister were waiting for them, and so hope they were not part of the carnage.

The Boston Marathon had a 117 year history, uninterrupted by World Wars I or II or even by weather. It was awful to witness its first interruption by a senseless terrorist act that will likely change the face of road racing everywhere.

Again, thanks to everyone for their well-wishes and concern for our well being. We are fortunate to have emerged un-injured, and fortunate to have so many friends who care about us.

Thinking of all of you and hoping you are well.


Copyright © 2013 Alison Seely/Log Cabin Chronicles/04.13