Deanne Weaver and Beth Carr were about a half-mile from finishing their first Boston Marathon last year when they came to a complete stop.
At first, the Columbus runners figured someone ahead of them must have had a heart attack or another medical issue as about 25 EMTs rushed down the grassy median along Boylston Street. After nearly a half-hour, they heard people in the crowd saying there had been an explosion at a library.
“We didn’t have any direction from the Boston Athletic Association or the police,” Weaver said. “We were asking them what to do. After a while, we stepped off the course to get warm. We ended up going into a tavern to get warm, and that’s when we heard on TV that it was two bombs that went off.”
The bombs went off near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260, causing chaos in Boston and its suburbs for nearly a week as police searched for those responsible. Cheering crowds turned into anxious residents and visitors.
But Weaver, 52, wasn’t deterred about competing in this year’s Boston Marathon, which takes place on Monday.
“I didn’t think I would, but as the day draws closer, I do,” Weaver said. “I never thought of a race as being a target, but now, that’s something that’s in the back of your mind. I’m not scared, but it will probably come into your mind when you see 3,500 police officers with machine guns lining the route. It will probably bring into play the events of last year.”
Andy Mann of Columbus will be running in his third consecutive Boston Marathon and his 28th overall.
“I had no doubts that I wanted to go back,” Mann said. “There’s been an overwhelming support. They’ve increased the field size to 36,000, and they’re expecting close to a million spectators. I think everybody is excited to go back and reclaim Boston as the iconic race that it is.”
Mann, 36, has been training with Sarah McGovern, 36, who will be running her first Boston Marathon.
“For a lot of people, it makes you want to go more because you don’t want to let something tragic make you stop,” McGovern said. “It didn’t scare me. I worry a little bit about my friends and family who are cheering me, but I feel like it will be very safe, and they’ll take a lot of precaution, so I’m not worried about it.”
While Mann and Weaver, along with at least four other Columbus residents, plan to run in this year’s Boston Marathon on Monday, Elise Foster isn’t making the return trip. Foster finished last year’s race about 40 minutes before the bombings.
“I saw Boston like I’d never seen it before,” Foster said. “The next morning we walked out of the hotel to lines and lines of news vans and on-scene reporting. The barriers were still up on Boylston Street and were flanked by flowers and makeshift memorials. The street was a mess. It was as if people just dropped everything and ran out. Banana peels, running shoes and Gatorade bottles lined the streets — but no owners were in sight.”
Mann finished about an hour before the race was stopped and was back at his hotel with his twin brother and their wives. They were planning to do a little sightseeing when they received news of the bombings. The city’s transit service was shut down, so they hopped in a cab and headed for the Harvard University campus.
“It was an eerie feeling around the city the next couple of days because no one knew if something else was going to happen,” Mann said. “You heard sirens going off. It wasn’t what you would expect the week of the Boston Marathon.”
Foster also was recovering in her hotel room. Her husband, daughter and in-laws got off the subway just after the bombs exploded and were unaware of what happened. When they got to the hotel room, they turned on the television and discovered the news.
Soon after, Foster’s phone started beeping and buzzing nonstop with emails, texts and calls from friends and family.
“Initially, I was in a state of disbelief,” Foster said. “Then I wanted to find out where and how my friends who took part of the race and surrounding events were. I was relieved to find out that Deanne and Beth were safe and that my immediate friends and family were not injured. Things became more real when we saw SWAT team officials in our hotel, and walking out of the hotel wasn’t as easy as just walking out the door. The city was shut down.”
“I met my goal and put marathons behind me,” she said. “I still love to run, but much prefer shorter distances.”
Carr isn’t running Boston this year, either.
“We had basically completed the event, and she did not feel there was unfinished business to attend, and I guess I don’t either,” Weaver said. “We were close to the finish line, and with all the walking we did after the marathon, we completed 26 miles, plus many, many more.
“We felt very relieved and happy that we made that decision to stay together because, in the mass chaos that followed, we don’t know how long it would have been until we found each other,” she said. “There was no communication. The phone lines were jammed. It was very chaotic and very confusing.”
One of the overwhelming things that Weaver and Carr remember about the trip is how nice the people of Boston were. A young adult gave Weaver his coat when they went into the tavern. People on the street invited runners into their home and gave them snacks and cases of bottled and sports drinks.
“We had so many people help us,” Weaver said. “We thought that was great and awesome. The young man that gave me his coat, we’re going to meet up with him again in Boston.”
This year, Weaver has been training with Lisa Stadler, 44, of Columbus. Stadler wasn’t planning to try to qualify for Boston but came in under the qualifying time in the 2012 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.
Stadler’s husband and four children are with her in Boston, and two of her daughters were planning to run the 5K on Saturday.
“I wasn’t going to let (the bombings) deter me,” Stadler said. “My whole family is going. I think it’s going to be OK. The security is beefed up, and it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Christina Newell, 40, and Rhandi Orme, 30, also qualified for their first Boston Marathons at the 2012 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.
“I had never run a full marathon prior to the monumental marathon, and the whole reason I ran that marathon was to qualify for Boston,” Newell said. “After I did, then I felt like I had to follow through. I didn’t want to be down the road and an old person and look back and wish I would have, so I felt like I needed to do it.”
Orme has an 8-month old baby. But neither she nor Newell had any reservations about running in this year’s Boston Marathon in the wake of what happened last year.
“It was definitely a driving factor for me to do it,” Orme said. “Having a baby eight months ago is barely enough time to train properly. It’s not a lot, but it’s something I can do to stand up against terrorism. I’m honored to be a part of it this year. I feel fortunate that I get to do it.”
“I think there was a part of me that was nervous, but also, it makes you want to do it more,” Newell said. “You don’t want to not do it because then the terrorists win.”
Newell said she has never competed in a race without a time or a pace goal and subsequently felt she had a good or bad race. She wants Monday’s race to be different.
“I want it to be my first race where I just truly enjoy the experience and not focus on a certain pace or time goal,” Newell said. “I want to do it for the experience of just being there, supporting the cause and honoring those families who were affected by last year’s bombings.
“I’m going into this race with the mindset that even if I finish an hour slower than my personal record, I will be OK with that because I’ve had the privilege of being a part of this year’s Boston Marathon,” she said. “The entire nation is standing behind this marathon, and wow, I am blessed to be a part of that.”