I’m still processing everything that happened but this blog is an attempt to describe my personal experience at the Boston Marathon, and how I watched my environment unfolding. I have been reading the accounts of others and want to get my experience written down. Obviously I had no idea what was coming all day, and things changed very quickly, and I’m checking the news like everyone else, in my case with inflight wireless. I’ll attempt to tell my story as it happened.

Nine days ago, I was sitting amongst a circle of my family and friends at my baby shower in Seattle, drinking growlers of limeade and kombucha and smoking candy cigarettes for a laugh. And every day since then, I have been collecting photos, funny memories, and travel stories to help chronicle the most exciting week I’ve had in recent memory, all of which was set to culminate in my first ever experience with the Boston Marathon.

And now, only a few short hours after the finish line explosions, I am sitting on a plane flying home to Oregon, unable to think of anything else but the whirlwind I just experienced, how horrible the whole thing is, and the series of things that had to happen just-so for me to have my unscathed butt in this seat right now.

Not long before the explosion, I was with my friend Shanna from Oiselle (also pregnant and due June 7th), doing our damndest to get near the finish line. We had been cheering all morning in Wellesley, and before catching my flight home, we had juuuussst enough time to grab a much needed sandwich and swing by the finish line to experience a little of that famous excitement first hand. As it turned out, the area by the finish was so packed that you couldn’t even move, and the sandwich place turned out to be on the opposite side of the finish shoot anyway which was impossible to get to. We considered staying to watch for a while anyway, but our hunger was so intense that we decided to leave and feed the babies and come back later.

Around the corner was the Fairmont Copley Hotel, where the elite athletes were staying. We had a new plan: grab some overpriced food there and visit my friend Steph Rothstein Bruce (who had finished an amazing 15th place and was the 3rd American). As we tucked into our meal with a room full of athletes, coaches, and agents, we heard a loud explosion and felt the room vibrate slightly. It was one of those Jurrassic-Park-rippled-water-glass moments and my stomach turned. It was bad, I just knew it.

People were suddenly quiet, then some nervously mumbled while a few looked out the ground floor windows in the direction of the explosion. At first nothing happened and everyone just looked around at one another. Shalane Flanagan was at the next table over while her husband Steve came back to report what he could see from the window. I tried to read lips, unsuccessfully, and was too paralyzed to ask. Nobody spoke up. People pulled out their phones for information from the outside. A hum of mumblings gradually spread throughout the dining room as the sound of sirens built to a crescendo outside.


…finish Line…

…many injured…

…bits and pieces fitting into a puzzle. Security people dressed in Boston Marathon yellow jackets came in the room announcing, “all elite athletes please evacuate with us to room ____.” They had to repeat it several times before anyone got up. It was as if we all thought we were watching a movie until that moment, at a safe distance, and then as soon as we started to move together through the hallway we understood that this was real life and nobody knew the ending.

Shanna and I walked briskly toward the stairs to go to Steph and Ben Bruce’s room on the 3rd floor, since they missed the announcement, and on the way there, we saw Dr. John Ball and his friend Marc who were headed to the same place and didn’t seem to know what was happening. Despite trying to keep my cool, I know I had panic in my eyes because I could see their body language change and they came right with us without asking questions.

In Steph’s room, we all checked our twitter feeds and updated one another on anything we could piece together. Shanna opened a photo of a bloody scene from one of the explosions and my eyes welled up and my heart raced. I could feel Lima Bean moving around like crazy, probably from adrenaline coursing through me, so I kneeled to calm myself down. As soon as the news confirmed the explosions down the street, I texted my immediate family and Jesse’s family to let them know that if they heard anything about a bomb in Boston, I was safe. I squeezed it in just in time; that was the last time my phone would work for the next hour. Cell towers were either overloaded or being shut down. I still don’t know which.

Marc, Dr. Ball and I had flights to catch in less than two hours, and we had to make a quick decision. It seemed as if, with every passing minute, things were getting more and more locked down. We heard our hotel was already locked to outsiders, and we feared we wouldn’t be allowed out soon. We didn’t know if we would be able to catch a taxi or not to the airport, but we decided we had to try or else risk getting stuck in downtown Boston. Now was the moment.

One catch: my bags were left at the front desk of my hotel just a few miles outside the airport, and I needed to swing through there to get them before going to the airport. There was just enough time for a cab to hypothically make the stop on the way…if we could catch a cab.

There were no cabs.

Traffic was totally backed up.

People were everywhere, in mylar finishers blankets, trying unsuccessfully to use their phones, looking confused. There was no panic, only a general feeling of What now? People seemed to be awaiting instructions from a non-existent city-wide megaphone. From a disaster management standpoint, we seemed to be at an angle of repose. We saw the train station and headed straight for it. I had a feeling that if the station wasn’t shut down already, it would be soon once everyone figured out what the hell to do.

It was open and thanks to Marc’s navigation skills, we got tickets, found our way to the correct train, and got on board. I was in a bit of a pickle because I was now on my way to the airport without any of my luggage, but I decided I would get off at the airport and try to take a taxi to my hotel and back. There was (maybe) just enough time.

When I got in the taxi, my phone finally started working again and I quickly called Jesse and very briefly answered the concerned texts from my family and friends. I got word that public transportation was being shut down in the city just as I got back to the airport. The terminal security line was absolutely slammed with people moving at a snails pace due to what I can only assume were beefed up security measures, and I never would have made it through in time if an airline employee hadn’t escorted a handful of us directly to the front. With only a couple minutes to spare, I made it onto the plane and couldn’t help but wonder if the airport would shut down before we took off.

It wasn’t until the engines roared and inertia shoved me snugly into my seat that I was convinced I was going to make it home. Only then did I take a deep breath and pull my hood over my eyes to hide the swell of my emotions.

There are so many things I want to write about the Boston Marathon. I want to write about the friendly and interesting people who came to see me at the expo, getting to know the 110% crew, the reunion with my college coach, a rare opportunity for tea with my sisters in sport from Rhodes Island, the thrill of having my column announced at the Runner’s World Party, funny observations about the culture of the event, what it was like to watch instead of compete, how much more open and happy I feel in my sport now than a year ago. I wish I could write about what it was like to watch Steph run deep in the shadows of the well-deserved media favorites Kara and Shalane, fighting for every step in her quest to reach their level where her heart tells her she belongs, even though her body isn’t quite ready yet. I want to write about so many things, but all I can focus on is the horrible thing that happened, that is in fact still happening for many people, while I stew in this uncomfortable mixture of relief and guilt that I’m lucky enough to be going home.

The Boston Marathon has so many stories from thousands of people that won’t be told , because a few people are cruel and crazy and impossible to understand, and that makes me even sadder than I already am.