Wednesday, April 17, 2013

this is mine

No doubt, over the upcoming days and weeks, there will be many stories pouring out from all over after the bombing in Boston.  Stories will come from those immediately affected and injured, the first responders, those that were crossing the finish line when the first bomb went off, those near the second blast and everyone from Hopkington to the 26 mile marker.  We all will have a story.  This is mine.

Zenaida and I were driven to the shuttles that would take us to athletes village pretty early. It was cold and we shivered and wondered what the hell we were thinking.  We laughed and chatted on the school bus that took us closer to Athletes Village. I wasn't nervous. Walking in there made you feel like an Olympian.  Huge tents sprawled out on the grounds of a middle school.  There was music blasting, rows of port-a-potties, people setting up mini camps to wait till their wave was called.  There were announcements being made regularly over a loudspeaker and it was so cool. Zenaida and I walked around looking for anyone from our team and quickly decided we were the first to arrive and found a spot to put our trash bags down and relax. In a few minutes it seemed the crowd had doubled and then tripled. The bathroom lines were getting longer.  I have never seen so much vaseline. Or so many inner thighs of older men.  They have no shame when it comes to preventing chafing.

Soon enough we had met up with most of our team. We had our pictures taken, applied our temporary tattoos, wrote our names on our arms and the names of the girls we were running for.  We packed up our bags and headed off to the buses to drop them off-we could pick them up at the end of the race. Then we made our way to the start line. I made a quick last minute bathroom run, then booked it up to our corral.  I couldnt find many of our team but did make my way to Zenaida and Danny and Krissy.  We chatted. We moved closer to the start.  Then it was time.  We were the last group to go. The closer we got the start, the more people there were to cheer us on.  It was mind blowing how many people were there.  I had the biggest smile on my face and I just kept saying this is so cool.  So cool.  And then I was running.  I was with Zenaida and Danny for a little while and then they took off.  I was trying to keep a good easy pace as I was told to take it a little easy at the beginning because it is downhill.  I was happy with my pace by the time I had hit 5K and by 10K my time was 1:07:37 which was just about exactly right.  My half marathon time was 2:33:25 which was just perfect.  I knew it was going to take me between 5 and 5 and a half hours to finish-and by then I had decided I really didnt care about my time.  I just wanted to cross that finish line and feel the exhilarating celebration of my own personal triumph.  All the hard work would be worth it.

Miles 13-16 were a flash.  It was my first time running without music and it was awesome.  All I could hear was my breathing and the spectators.  What a amazing group of people.  I passed by bikers bars blaring metal music, children handing out candy, families grilling on their lawns, lots of drunk college kids, girls in bikinis, and some of the best signs I have ever seen: YOU TRAINED FOR THIS LONGER THAN KIM KARDASHIAN'S MARRIAGE!  THOSE SHORTS MAKE YOUR ASS LOOK FAST! IT'S ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE...OOPS, NEVERMIND.
And the cheers-some in thick Boston accents "you're doing great over heyah!" "dig deep! you got this!" "Go person wearing purple!"

I had one of my best moments at about mile 11 where Red, Coach, Zenaida's sister and Lee Ann's mom and sister were waiting for me.  Red was holding the amazing sign that Zhanna had made me and I was so happy to see them. I hugged them all.  Then they ran a bit with me and shooed me away.  Right after I saw them my knee started to hurt a bit.  I had to start walking a little here and there but other than that I was feeling good.  A couple miles later you hit Wellesly College where you are screamed at by college girls to kiss them for a number of reasons: kiss me, Im graduating!  kiss me, Im japanese!  Kiss me, Im from Michigan! A runner just ahead of me picked a girl and kissed her.  I didnt kiss anyone.  But I smiled a lot. 

I walkeda lot between miles 16 and 19.  It was tough.  Way harder than the upcoming heartbreak hill would be.  The spectators kept me going. Even though my feet hurt and my knee was barking, I was actually having the time of my life.  Taking it all in.  The weather was perfection. The spectators were amazing. Let's go Team Rett!  Giving kids high fives. Seeing all the other runner's t shirts with dedications to loved ones lost, dedications to cures for other syndromes and disorders and seeing three blind runners all humbled me. It was so special.

I then saw my friend Zhanna and her two kids and Laura, Greg and their daughter Meredith (who I had not yet met) waiting for me jumping up and down screaming.  It was incredible.  Another highlight.  then more Rett families with their daughters.  Just beautiful.

At about mile 20, I remember seeing a girl about my age speaking to a member of the military who were all along the route.  She was crying.  I heard her say "Im not sure what's going on, it's total confusion".  I figured she was talking about someone on her team that maybe was up ahead or behind and was injured or passed out or something.  He got on his phone. I ran by.  Then I saw another girl talking to a police officer.  She too was crying. For whatever reason I pulled out my phone and there were two texts Call me Call me.  From Red.  Im thinking Im running, why would he want me to call.  I called.  He said to me: I just got a call from Coach.  There has been an explosion at the finish line. There is no finish line.  Im coming to get you. We had planned for him to come meet me around mile 23 so we could run the last few together so the fact that he was coming to get me was normal.  The fact that he said there is no finish line was not. Everything stopped-except it didn't.  More runners were on their phones but the spectators were still cheering.  They didnt know.  I was still trying to run while texting and checking twitter.  I stopped to ask a police officer-what happened at the finish?  We dont know, it is just coming through, just keep running till someone tells you to stop. Wait, what?  I saw a tweet from Luke Russert from the AP wire: two blast heard at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel.  Then nothing.  Im trying to call Red back because now we have been stopped by police.  We are all just stunned and standing around. Then they tell us-runners head over to the sidewalk-race is cancelled.  I cant get a hold of Red.  Finally I do.  Im panicking. Im in shock.  I have no idea what anything means.  I can't understand simple sentences.  Im looking around to try to tell Red where I am and I give him the name of the cross street Im on.  It takes me about 5 minutes to realize Im at an entrance to Boston College.  Just before the 22 mile mark. So close but so far away.

The police were letting people walk down the race route so I made my way on the sidewalk.  Then my phone started going nuts.  Texts from everyone everywhere. I was trying to quickly let people know I was ok but also trying to conserve my battery b/c it was getting very low.  I was also trying to check on my team mates and find out more.  I was hoping it was an accident.  An underground explosion-not a terror attack.Are you kidding me? Who does this? 

I actually thought to myself " I need to call my mom and dad" what a crazy thought since they have both been gone so long.  Phones were not working.  I tried my brother but it would not go through and I texted him instead. I finally found Red.  We tried to talk it out.  What could this be?  We were overhearing people's conversations as they passed and were checking twitter and the news.  Mass casualties, terrorists, pipe bomb. We didnt know what to believe.  It was the eeriest walk.  Then we started to panic again as we got closer to downtown.  Barricades everywhere. Cops everywhere. They wouldnt let us through. People on their phones crying.  People also on their phones laughing b/c they still hadnt heard.

We zig zagged the city.  It took us nearly two hours to get downtown.  Part of that we spent rushing down an alley parallel to the race route.  Helicopters over head. Hearing from Coach that he had been across the street from the first blast and that they were with friends of friends on lockdown somewhere else.  We turned on Arlington St and I saw the hotel.  I wanted to sprint there.  In front of the hotel were several men-we barreled past them and in the revolving doors: excuse me, sir!  your room key.  Thankfully we had one (we were just crashing there for our last night in town with Coach and Lee Ann).  I ran to the elevator and frantically pressed the button.  I still had my race bib on.  A man with a suitcase asked me if I had run-I said yes but I didnt finish. He said he just flew in and the airport was closed.  I got into the elevator and just put my hand over my mouth.  My mind was racing.  We rushed into the room where Lee Ann was waiting with our other friend Gary.  She was on the phone with Coach.  I walked in and lost it. Mostly from the relief of being there and being safe after two hours of uncertainty.

The rest of the night we spent in that room.  Drinking too much wine and watching the news coverage.  We had to stop and watch a funny movie to take our minds off it all.  It was too much.  We were going from acting like everything was normal to telling our versions of the day and crying.  Hearing a friend say "and that was when the second bomb went off" is hard to process.  Even though you know it happened and you are watching it happen on the news it doesnt seem real.
We found out Lee Ann had finished about 10 minutes before the first bomb.  We found out that the VIP passes our whole team got likely saved them from being on the wrong side of the street that day. We found out that everyone from Team Rett was ok. But nothing was ok.

It was so disappointing. On every level.  From not getting to finish after all that work, to finding out about the deaths and multiple injuries it was all so tough.  Obviously me not finishing was the least of my concerns but I just couldn't believe it. We were there.  We experienced a terror attack. I dont think I will ever understand it.

What I do know is this.  Im so glad to have had so many people concerned about us and our team. Im so glad that I was able to walk 10 more miles than I had to to get to a safe place with friends.  Im ridiculously grateful that none of us were hurt even though I know in our own ways this event has scarred us forever.  I know that I will go back next year and finish this even though Lee Ann generously and sweetly gave me her finishers medal I have to go back to really do it for me.
I also know that this experience-like a lot in my life-can be compared to living with rett syndrome.  what happened was not fair, it was not ideal.   Others experienced the same thing but with far worse consequences. It was going great and then just like that it all changed. But with that change a realization of how grateful I am for what I have.  We have been knocked down before and we will get up again.

me coming in to mile 11
Thank you to all of you who checked in with texts, calls facebook posts etc.  It was so wonderful to be hearing from everyone while I was alone walking to find Red.  It was extremely comforting and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.



Emma said...

Erica, I've been reading your blog for so long now and never commented... it's time. All these months reading your marathon training updates... wow. It was with a very heavy heart that I read the news about the bombings. You're incredibly brave and i'm so glad you're all ok. You and Team Rett have done a wonderful thing raising all this money and in the process suffered an enormously stressful situation. But I have NO doubt you'll cross the finish line next year. :) I'll be cheering you from the web-sidelines!
Emma, Australia

Colleen said...

Wow, that is truly surreal. I was in my car, both little girls were asleep when I heard the news on the radio. It was just a short blurb and they said it was mostly spectators that were affected. My mind immediately went to Rett girls waiting at the finish and my heart stopped. I'm so sorry you didn't get to finish but think you're awesome for going back next year. I'm sure it'll be huge. Glad you're ok, that you made it to your hotel safe. Stay strong Mama!

Tanis said...

Erica, I love how you write!! What a fantastic and horrible experience! Thank you for running for our girls and for planning on doing it again next year! and thank you for sharing this!

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing this - for sharing it with us = you had so many people thinking of you all and praying for you all!! Hugs to you!! I KNOW you will be back next year and even though you were not able to finish the race this year -you made us ALL PROUD!

Jen said...

I read this with giggles at the thought of the signs followed by tears of how you must have all felt. People like you inspire people like me to run for all our girls. Thank you for your courage to run and your bravery to tell us you story.

mj said...

My thoughts exactly. I've been formulating my blog post in my head for three days and it's pretty similar. Miss you already.

The Maughan's said...

Wow Chills! I can't imagine how scary that was. You are an incredible person. You and your family cross that finish line everyday dealing with Rett Syndrome. YOU ARE STRONG!!!

Erica said...

thank you all for reading and sharing. im still after more than 2 weeks trying to process this. all your support means the world to me-really.xxoo