Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Even though my mind is still a bit numb in light of what transpired yesterday, I thought it would be important to blog about yesterday's events. I tend to procrastinate and I thought it would be best that I memorialize as best I could what myself and those I hold near and dear experienced yesterday. I will try to do my best. The 2013 Boston Marathon actually started for us on a beautiful June afternoon 2012. Kenny "aka gambler" Rogers had just completed the Western States 100. I made it a point that I would finally meet Bill, Victoria and Gwendolyn Strong after the race. We drove down to Santa Barbara and finally met this amazing family. It was a special afternoon. They are amazing people, selfless, kind, generous and always look adversity straight in the eye. They have to because they live with SMA everyday. They have inspired me so much. As we were sitting around and talking about running, I asked Bill if he had any goals or wishes in regards to running. Bill mentioned that he would love to someday run the Boston Marathon. I don't think it took long but I told him I could probably make that happen. I don't know if he believed me or not but I was determined to get my friend a number and make a wish come true. With the help of my good friend Geoff Smith(2 time winner of the Boston Marathon) I was able to get Bill a number for this years race. It would be extra special because my fellow SMA ass kicker, the Lovely Lauren Lundy had qualified for Boston this year. This had been Lauren's goal and holy grail for many years and she had finally achieved it. I am so proud of her. She is so bad ass and an amazing person. Also Bill's friend William Crader had also qualified for the Boston Marathon and would also be making the trip out to Boston. Team GSF would be assembled and the theme as always would be NEVER GIVE UP! For those of you who know me, I'm not big on road marathons and would much rather spend my time on the trails. I could not pass up this opportunity however and was so excited to be running with these superstars. Plus its the Boston Marathon. I have been struggling with a hamstring injury for over a year so I was not in tip top shape to say the least. This would be a "pageant" run, waving and blowing kisses to the crowd. I just wanted to run with my friends and help make a difference in a childs life. Fast forward to race day, and the full team assembled in the athletes village. It was so cool to see my friends Bill and Lauren and to meet my new friend, Billy. We were all sporting our Never Give Up shirts and I must say we were looking good, well at least those three were! Billy was in the first wave, Lauren the second, and myself and Bill in the third. Billy and Lauren left to run there Boston marathon and we wished them good luck. Myself and Bill milled around a bit longer and talked about things like we were old friends. Bill is one solid dude. Bill was amazed at the magnitude, scope and size of the race and was totally excited. He kept thanking me for the opportunity but it was me who was thankful for all that he does. I explained to Bill the significance of Marathon Monday and of Patriots day. It is the most special day for Bostonians. I told him to expect the crowds to energize him along the way. I told him to enjoy the hundred of thousands of spectators who would be lining the streets to cheer on his efforts. I told him how crazy excting Boston would be once he got near Fenway and the fans spill out of the ballpark. And finally onto Boylston St., the amazingness of the finish I just knew he would be amazed by the race and I would be proud for having him here. GSF would be heard from here in Boston! Before the race started, I told Bill that I was unsure if I could keep up with him because of my lack of fitness. I told him to run his own race, soak in the day and I would see him at the finish. Finally the gun went off and within 10 minutes or so our 2013 Boston journey began. Per usual it was slow going for the first couple of miles but that was totally enjoyable to me. Like I said, I had no intentions of going out hard and fast and would be super happy with a 4:15 marathon. The weather was perfect for running and Bill was looking real strong. I stayed with him for about 3 miles but I knew I could not keep up the pace. I let Bill drift ahead and I was content to just hang back and soak in the race. No pressure. I felt good for about 5 or 6 miles, but after awhile both hamstrings became sore and were very tight. I wasn't going very fast at all and was predicting a finish well over 4 hours. The pace was enjoyable but again the hammies were toast. The crowds were great and helped move me along the course. There is nothing quite like the Boston Marathon. I got to mile 15 and Kenny and Victor Couto were greeting runners from our area. I told Kenny I left my hammies at mile 10. Kenny jumped in with me and ran about a half mile. I told him how I was feeling and that I was taking it easy. After leaving Kenny, I proceeded along until I got to Mile 17 or 18, turned up the hills and started to give it a go. I don't know what happened but the crowds and the hills really energized me. I powered up the first hill and my hamstrings started to loosen up a bit. I forgot to mention that the Never Give Up shirts were a huge hit. The crowd kept cheering the slogan when I passed by and it always gave me a big jolt. I also like to run on the left side of the course for some reason and like to run near the crowd. There are so many children lining the course and I like to make them feel part of the race by giving high fives to them. I got to the top of the first hill which I believe is mile 19. I started to have the old internal conversation with myself, "Hey dummy, your a feeling a little better, why dont you start running." Then I doubted myself some more and then I said "why don't you run this bitch." And so I did. I felt totally energized and strong. I had not been running consistently for sometime and did not know where this was coming from. I had some time to make up to break 4 hours but I thought I would give it a go. And later on, I was fortunate that I did. Fast forward to the end, I made my turn onto Boylston St and once again I was amazed at the crowds. Thousands upon thousands of people lining the streets of the finish. Once you make the turn onto Boylston St., it is approx. 1/2 mile to the finish. So I was running close to the crowds on the left hand side and I saw my 3 Team Cheering Crew, my girlfriend Rebecca, along with my best friends Heather and Gillian. I was so happy to see them and I ran over and we had a big old Team Owen hug. I think I told them I got snots on them and then I ran away lol. I then continued on my merry way and finished my Boston Marathon 2013. I was so happy that I was feeling suprisingly good. After crossing the finish line, I started to mosey along the runners chute where all the runners are contained after they finish. I made it to the water station and started drinking some water, and doing a little stretching etc. And then it happened. I was facing away from the starting line when I heard this horrific blast. I turned around in time to see a plume of smoke rising from the start area. I knew in an instant it was not good. In what seems like seconds, I saw a bright flash of flames and then a louder blast. I knew what was going on. I was probably 200-300 yards from the explosion. I started to walk towards the explosion when several officers started to scream for us to run. My first thought was oh please don't let the girls be near this! But I knew that after seeing me they would have started to walk towards the finish line to meet me. In my head I knew that they would have been so close to these blasts. My heart was in my stomach. What I didn't know and I am so grateful for is that Bill was only 1 minute behind me. I thought he had already crossed the finish line. What I didn't know is that I had passed him along the race and didn't see him. Unknown to me, they had waited that extra minute to see Bill run by them, then they started towards the finish. Little did we know that this one minute changed everything for my loved ones. Bill was 1 minute or 100 yards closer to the blast than I was. For those of you who have not run Boston, the runners chute that we were in is lined with school buses containing runners personel belongings. There were a couple thousand runners now jammed into a "chokepoint" on Boylston St. My training and experience took over and all I was thinking was getting to the girls. Most people were oblivious to the magnitude of what had just happened. Many were saying it was probably a generator or a man hole cover exploding. I knew better. People were still getting their medals and I was trying to tell anybody who would listen that they needed to screw the medal and get out of here. We were in a perfect terrorist trap and I was just waiting for a secondary device to go off. The buses are parked bumper to bumper so you cannot get access to the sidewalk. So I low crawled under a bus and hopped the fence onto the sidewalk. And then I ran, I ran towards my bus parked on the common so I could get my phone and find out what had happened to the girls. Once I got on the bus, I frantically called Rebecca, Gillian and Heather. All my calls were going straight to voicemail. I was leaving pleading, frantic messages for them. I tried to call Bill and Lauren but nothing would get through. I tried texting everybody again but only got Bill. He said he was safe in the Common and Lauren and Bill were safe too. I still could not get through to the girls. I was frantic, I was helpless. My good friends Kevin Mullen and Mike Maher showed up and told me they had been near the blast also. They told me what I already knew, that it was a couple of bombs, maybe car bombs. The city was in chaos. Our worse fears realized. I kept trying and trying but nothing worked. My mind was racing trying to figure out what to do next. Thankfully after many calls, Rebecca finally answered. She was hysterically crying and I could not make out what she was saying. Their was terror and fear in her voice but at least I heard it. I was somewhat relieved but it sounded like the girls had been hurt. I talked to Gillian next, thankfully she told me they were OK, a little cut up, bruised and beaten, but they were ok. Heather would need stitches on her foot but they were in tact. I knew the girls were scared and I knew I had to get to them. We finally figured out that they were along the Charles near the Mass Ave Bridge. I left my stuff with Mully and then ran as fast as I could down Commonwealth Ave. I felt so strong and empowered for those 2 miles. It was like I hadn't already run a marathon. I then turned the corner and ran towards the bridge. I saw the girls being helped by another runner. I ran to them and hugged Rebecca, Gillian, and Heather. I was so grateful that they had not been seriously hurt. We got our bearings, headed towards the car and got out of Boston as fast as we could. There are so many emotions that I have been experiencing the last 36 hours. Anger, sadness, helplessness, anger again, gratitude. It is tough to comprehend what just happened. You also feel guilty, or at least I do. Why was it somebody else and not me? Why was it an 8 year old boy and not me? Why did I run faster the last 6 miles and where did that come from? Why would some evil bastard do this, knowing that you would kill and maim innocent, happy, loving people? As Team GSF, we were so looking forward to celebrating my friends accomplishments. And now their feels like emptiness. A big hole in my heart. I don't get to see my friends often and it breaks my heart what happened this monday. I can have some comfort knowing that they are all right physically and I hope mentally too. I just wish there was more I could do. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of this senseless tragedy. My heart breaks for you and your families. I really don't know how to end this blog other than to say... I'll see you at the 2014 Boston Marathon! Post Script After looking over the blog, there was just so much more I could have written about but I would be here for another week. A couple of things that I must mention is my friend Dawn Nunes(President of the Greater New Bedford Track Club) did an amazing job accounting for all the track club members and keeping a cool head during all the chaos. Dawn was also assisted by my friend Laurie Bertoldo Walker. Well done my friends, well done. And I left out the most amazing piece of our story, the bravery of our three girls Rebecca, Heather and Gillian. After looking over pictures and video of what happened in Boston, I can only imagine the horror they witnessed. Pure horror. I am so grateful that they are ok and are still with us. Once again i firmly believe the O man was protecting his mommy and all her friends.