The runners will rise and run again

By Ashley Choquette

Boston Massachusetts is a small city rich in history. It’s home of the Celtics, brewers, and the Red Sox.  It’s where people prefer Dunkin’ Donuts coffee over Starbucks and the only place you can enjoy a cold Samuel Adams while visiting the cold Samuel Adams. It’s also the home of the mother of all marathons, the Boston Marathon.

I would like to give you all a brief history on this race. It began in 1897, inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition  in the 1896 Summer Olympics. The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon and is ranked as the best known road racing event.

The race has traditionally been held on Patriots’ Day, a state holiday in Massachusetts held on the third Monday every April and also known as Marathon Monday.  This holiday commemorates the battles of Concord and Lexington, but if you we’re to ask any Bostonian what Patriots Day is, their answer, “It’s the weekend of Sox and the Marathon.”

This Marathon isn’t like any other marathon. To run it, you must be 18 or older and you must meet the qualifying standards . To qualify you must first compete a standard marathon who’s course is certified by the International Association of Athletics Federations. They allow 20,000 runners in, and about 1/3 of the spots are reserved for charities. For most runners, this race the ultimate goal to set and conquer. I have been a spectator of this race twice for my dad who competed and finished in 2003 and 2005. This year, was my husband’s turn.

Sunday morning I competed the Boston 5k. My dad and I ran down to Copely Square early so I was able to pick up my bib number. So many people were congregated by the finish line, laughing, warming up,  snapping photos. My dad and I were standing by the bleachers and I remember saying to him how I couldn’t wait for Matt to experience all of this.

Being down at the finish line, I remember looking across the street at a sign on an exquisite church that said, prayers for the runners tomorrow at 9a.m.-11a.m. I thought that if were scheduled to run in the morning, I might run down and attend the service. I also caught myself staring at the marathon store shop.  It wasn’t until Tuesday night that I had realized that these were foreshadows leading up to an unforgettable event.

Marathon Monday started out to be such a beautiful day. My family and I decided against staying at the finish line. I told them I wanted to take the T out to Boston College and stand at the bottom of heartbreak hill. I wanted to be there after the hardest part in the race. I needed to see the look from my husband to reassure me he was doing well.

After Matt passed us, we took the T back to the finish so we could meet up with him at the family meeting area. As I was patiently waiting for him, a thought crossed my mind. I wondered if an event like this would ever be a target for a terrorist attack. The thought came and went like a moment. I remember Matt showing up, and me throwing my arms around him. We walked back to our hotel which was three blocks from the finish line.

At precisely 2:50 p.m., Matt and I were sitting on our bed emailing his coach about his race. We told our parents we would be meeting them in the lobby soon after. On our way down, another marathoner stopped and inquired if we had heard about the bomb that had gone off at the finish line. Completely confused, Matt and I jumped on an elevator and went to the lobby.

The lobby was packed with people crowded around all the televisions. The runner had been correct. Two bombs had been set off at the finish line. My heart dropped and fear literally started to flow through my veins. The Prudential Building and other hotels were evacuated. Runners were filing into our hotel lobby. Some had cuts and were wrapped in bandages. The elder man you see on the news who fell to his feet when the first bomb went off, was actually staying in our hotel.  Instead of runners celebrating a major accomplishment, they were all in a state of confusion and shock.

Cell phone towers were down due to everyone trying to call friends and family.  Everyone was glued to the television waiting for anything new to arise. I remember sitting in the hotel restaurant and there was a girl just sobbing. I stood up and had to give her a hug. It’s amazing when a tragedy strikes how everyone forms some type of bond.  We were getting stories that other bombs were found. We were told to stay in our rooms and not congregate in groups.  Matt and I were glued to the news all night.

Matt Choquette with his father-in-law Jim Woy, who first ran the Boston Marathon in 2003.

The next morning we were stuck in limbo. We had a fantastic day planned of duck tours, the Kennedy Library, shopping and of course for me, photography. All of those plans were at a halt and the fun had been completely depleted.

We decided to walk to the prudential to try and do some shopping. The walk was very different, it smelt of death, sorrow and sadness. I even remember walking by dried blood that hadn’t been washed off the sidewalk. We got to the  prudential but most stores were closed. There were restaurants that had gone untouched since the evacuation the day before. Inside you could see dozens of cell phones, uneaten food, and a child’s coat, a black and white sweater coat to be exact. The atmosphere in general was just solemn and quiet.

Moments are defined as 1, An indefinitely short period of time 2, The present time or any other particular time 3, A definite period or stage, as in a course of events. Some moments come and go without phasing us, like the foreshadow moments I had on Sunday. Others can take our breath away causing us joy, laughter, sense of accomplishment and even tears. Then, there are those moments that can pierce our hearts and bring us to our knees in one blow. They form shapes the we can neither predict or understand. I believe that these are the moments that define us.

Runners form bonds that are unique in so many different ways. Yes, we are crazy, but we thrive in our ability to, in what Bill Bowerman would say, test the limits of the human heart. We are built of strength, perseverance and honor. There was a great quote that was tagged to me on Facebook that said, ” If they’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target. ”

I tell you now, from the rubble and debris, the runners will rise, and continue to run, because that is what runners do.

I was asked in an interview if I would ever go back to Boston. My answer, Hell. Yes! I plan on returning to Boston, and not as a spectator but as runner in the 2015 Boston Marathon!

— Ashley Choquette is a devote runner and photographer. Click here to see her A. Choquette Photography page on Facebook.