By Marta Zarrella
Dr. Steven “Steve” Tally and his wife Kris witnessed the tragedy that was the 2013 Boston Marathon and returned this year, hoping for some closure and healing.
“Of all the races I’ve run — well over 100 triathlons and over 25 to 30 marathons, this is the most inspiring and memorable race of my life,” said Steve, who participated as a runner.
Steve and Kris are athletes who find Ramona’s San Diego Country Estates the perfect place to live, enjoy nature and train for the marathons and triathlons that they enjoy. Last April, the
told their story about being part of the 2013 Boston Marathon when brothers Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, originally from Chechnya but living as college students in Cambridge, Mass., hid two bombs in trash cans along the race route. The bombs exploded 12 seconds apart near the finish line, killing three and injuring approximately 264 runners and bystanders.
Steve wore a helmet cam in the 2013 marathon and captured video of the trash can where the second bomb exploded. He shared his footage with investigators. While the couple sheltered in place in the Cheesecake Factory Restaurant as CNN reports of the day were broadcast on a television, they realized that Kris had been standing almost directly across the street from where the second bomb exploded. Her husband had already crossed the finish line when the chaos began.
“Before this race and event, my wife and I had decided it would be fun to go to the Boston Marathon every few years, but not attend every year due to schedules and expense, Steve said last year. “Up until the time we walked in our front door, the 2014 Boston Marathon was the last thing on my mind. Now, I feel it will be important to go next year to be a small part of the closure and healing for that wonderful city, and watch the many returning runners who were not able to complete the race finally cross that finish line.”
As planned, the couple returned to Boston this year with 25 to 30 members of his Triathlon Club of San Diego. Meb Keflezighi, a member of Team Sketchers, which Steven also belongs to, won the men’s race in 2:08:37 and became the first American male runner to win the Boston Marathon since 1983.
The 36,000 registered runners made for a crowded course this year.
The biggest decision Steve had, after realizing that the 2014 Boston Marathon attracted 10,000 more runners than the previous year, was whether to do what it takes to run a fast pace or just enjoy the course. He was in the first wave at the start of the race and said it was very crowded the first few miles.
The energy of the crowd along the course was empowering, he said. The runners were made to feel welcome from the moment they got off the bus that transported them the 26 miles from Boston to the starting line in Hopkinton. The first thing runners saw when stepping off the bus in Hopkinton were signs saying “Welcome Back,” “This Is Our City,” “Take Our City Back,” and, the most memorable, “This Is Our ing City,“ which was hung on the side of a house.
The theme of reclaiming the city and Boston pride was huge, and the runners bonded more than years past, he said.
“In years past there were people along the course, cheering all 26 miles, but usually there were gaps between towns. This year there were no gaps, there were people cheering and waving at the runners all along the route. There were lots of wonderful signs filled with love and pride. I enjoyed waving to the kids. It was very special.”
After the halfway mark, Steve decided to run a recreational pace to enjoy the experience. He finished 3:17 slower than last year’s time of 3:12:59.
Kris was a spectator at the finish line again. She was a little worried about being there, wondering if it would trigger any memories. Spectators bonded as much as the runners so, in the end, Kris also had a wonderful day. The reality of their experiences, both in 2013 and 2014, hit home when the they walked through the plaza where they sheltered in place last year. There was some reminiscing about their experience last year, but what they felt mostly was a sense of closure.
Prior to the trip, they made arrangements to meet the Boston couple they had spent so much time with in 2013. The two couples met at the same table at the Cheesecake Factory where they had reached out to so many runners last year during the chaos after the 2013 bombings.
The two couples shared almost three hours together, celebrating the healing that took place with the 2014 marathon.
The most remarkable thing, said Steve, was the City of Boston that managed to make 36,000 people feel welcome and special. Everyone from police to transportation people treated runners like celebrities.
He shared a story about deciding to take the subway one evening when going to dinner with friends who were also runners. When they were trying to figure out where to get a ticket and how to get on board the subway, a subway worker asked if they had run the race. When the answer was “yes,” he unlocked the gate with his master key and offered them free rides anywhere they wanted to go, all night long.
Steve said security was amazing. There were lots of uniformed officers, but that did not affect the feel of the race. Everyone was friendly from airport security to race check-in and the course itself.
Uniformed officers lined the route. Local police, Boston police, private security and National Guard were in full attire. Behind-the-scenes security such as snipers, plain clothes and other safety officers who did not appear to be officers also were in place. Even with all of that, there was not a war zone feel, Steve said.
The security process at check-in also was different this year. Bags were searched and people in baggy clothing were patted down. Backpacks and large purses were not allowed near the finish line. Runners were not allowed to bring bags where they traditionally carried food, water and additional clothes as in years past, when the bags were given to race personnel and delivered to the finish line for the runners. This year, runners were given clear bags to put their possessions in and the bags were taken from them at the starting line; nothing was bussed to the finish. They were given a disposable poncho and were allowed to carry water.
For the bus ride, they were asked to wear a “throwaway,” an old sweatshirt or sweater to keep warm that they would not mind dropping into a Salvation Army-type giveaway box at starting line.
“It was a most incredible experience from check-in to departure,” Steve said. “The pride of the people of Boston was strong, their welcoming kindness indescribable, the size of the crowd and the peacefulness of the day were impressive.”