Remembering The Boston Marathon Lost To The Bombing

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Alex Ashlock of member station WBUR covered this year's Boston Marathon, as he has for the last 13 years. He remembers when that tragic Monday in April was just another thrilling, magical morning that was shattered when two homemade bombs exploded near the finish line.


This past April 15, nearly 27,000 people ran in the Boston Marathon. The winner was an elite Ethiopian runner, in just his second marathon ever. He beat the second-place runner by five seconds. The third-place winner was just one second behind him. But few remember the electric, three-way sprint for victory. That's because of the two homemade bombs that went off as recreational runners loped, exhausted, across the finish line.

Alex Ashlock, of member station WBUR, covered the marathon in April, as he has for the past 13 years. He remembers when that tragic Monday this spring was just another thrilling, magical morning.

ALEX ASHLOCK, BYLINE: Every Boston Marathon offers possibility. There might be an incredibly fast time. I've seen them here. Or a surprising winner - after all, a lot can happen over the course of that 26 miles. So it was possibility I was thinking about as I walked to the finish line, mainly that Shalane Flanagan, a world-class runner from right here in Marblehead, Mass., could become the first American to win the Boston Marathon in decades.


SHALANE FLANAGAN: I was a little girl just north of here - you know, like, 10 miles north of the city - and dreamed of running this race, and it's finally here. And I couldn't be more excited. I have to like - I have to contain it.

ASHLOCK: It really was a gorgeous day, and we waited in the sunshine for the winners to cross the finish line. For a world-class runner, it takes less than two and a half hours to finish the marathon. The crowd cheered encouragement, ringing bells and waving flags as the winners crossed the finish line.


ASHLOCK: I ran into Shalane Flanagan in the hotel lobby after she finished her race. She was disappointed a bit; she finished fourth.

FLANAGAN: I'm extremely happy that I fulfilled the lifelong goal of mine, but I dreamt of winning today. I dreamt of a laurel wreath on my head, and it didn't happen. But that's the reason why goals are big, and they're hard.



ASHLOCK: Shalane Flanagan's race was over but back outside the hotel, thousands of runners were finishing their own marathons. I waded into that crowd; it's something I do every year. It's like swimming in a sea of joy and sweat.


ASHLOCK: How was it out there?

DAVE MASTERSON: Outstanding, great weather. From Florida, so we don't get to run in anything this cool. It was awesome. Great day.

ASHLOCK: What's your name?

MASTERSON: Dave Masterson (ph).

ASHLOCK: Where are you from, in Florida?

MASTERSON: Palm Beach, Fla.

ASHLOCK: What about you?

KAT GRAHAM: It was awesome. The support was amazing. Every city, it was just - it was a great day.

ASHLOCK: What's your name?

GRAHAM: Kat, I'm - Graham (ph) - from Louisville, Ky.

ASHLOCK: Congratulations.

GRAHAM: Thanks.

ASHLOCK: I thought my day was over. I came back to the newsroom. But before I could even report on the results of the marathon, we started to hear the reports and see the pictures. There had been explosions near the finish line at the Boston Marathon.


UNIDENTIFIED FIRST-RESPONDER: Everyone, leave the area now! Off the street. Leave the area!

ASHLOCK: I rushed back downtown and stayed as runners, spectators and officials - all of us - were trying to make sense of what had just happened. It wasn't until the next day that this really started to sink in. But all the runners I spoke with told me basically the same thing. Monte Foss (ph) was one of them. She had come from Canada to run her first Boston Marathon. She wasn't able to finish because of the bombs.

MONTE FOSS: I will come back. This should not stop the world from living. Otherwise, we'll all be hiding in our houses - right?

ASHLOCK: It's winter now in Boston, but the runners certainly aren't hiding in their houses. I can see them out on the marathon course nearly every day. They're starting their training programs for the next race. They're building up their muscles and their stamina, to tackle Heartbreak Hill.

I have been in love with the marathon as an event ever since Frank Shorter won the Olympics in Munich in West Germany back in 1972. They ran that race despite a deadly terrorist attack on Israeli athletes only a few days before. This April in Boston, thousands will run the marathon because of what happened here.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: ...26.2 miles, good job by everyone. Welcome back to Boston!

ASHLOCK: For NPR News, I'm Alex Ashlock in Boston.



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