NPR 8 Runner's Hard Road Back To Boylston Ends In Triumph

Demi Clark, who has been profiled in NPR's series Running Toward Boylston, just finished the 2014 Boston Marathon. She discusses what it was like to tackle the marathon again after the 2013 bombing.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm joined now by another of today's 36,000-some-odd marathoners: Demi Clark of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, outside Charleston. Last year, she was one of the last runners to record a finish time in Boston. She crossed the finish line as the first bomb exploded just a few yards from where she was. Demi, congratulations. What was your time this year?

DEMI CLARK: Thank you. It was 4:01:15 according to my dad's text. I had no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

BLOCK: Really? So you beat your time from last year.

CLARK: Yes. I did. That was 4:06. So it was a hot day out there today, and I'm really proud of that. I had no idea. I didn't know it was that fast.

BLOCK: Well, something was pushing you forward, clearly.

CLARK: Absolutely. I was not walking today. I was going to finish strong for sure.

BLOCK: Well, Demi, you have been blogging for us in our Tumblr Running Toward Boylston. And at one point, you wrote, I'm afraid to go back to Boston. But obviously you did. How present was that fear today? Or did it disappear once you started running?

CLARK: You know, it all went away once we hit the start line. I - my husband and I got here Saturday, and I couldn't go anywhere close to that finish and - within a two-block radius, really. We hit Boylston to go to the parking garage to go to the expo to pick up my bib and I - my shoulders went by my ear. I was just instantly unnerved. So I really just had it in my head that until today, until we finish the way it's supposed to be, I couldn't go back to the finish line.

BLOCK: But today as you were running, what were you thinking?

CLARK: I - the only thing I was thinking about was that finish line.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

CLARK: It was - I was going to make it there no matter how much the heat, you know, affected me, no matter how much it hurt. Anything that was a negative, that would pop through my head, I mean, that's kind of a runner's strategy anyway, right, is to think positive thoughts. But, really, I kept the finish in my head. I said I deserve this. I want this. My hands are going over my head at 26.2, and I want to have that picture and that thought for my own personal closure.

BLOCK: You know, I read something you said ahead of this year's marathon. You said, I don't know if I'll be bawling for 26.2 miles or if I'll just be triumphant. It doesn't sound like you were bawling.

CLARK: No. I wasn't. You know, I had a couple moments there. The partner that I tried to run with was Mary Jenkins who - we started together, but we finished together last year, so she was another of the five runners right there that were the last recorded times. And she wasn't feeling as strong and kind of dropped off at 13. She actually finished around 4:22, I just found out. I'm glad she did finish.

But, you know, so I was on my own there from about 13 on. And there were a couple of times there I got a little choked up because I knew I felt strong and I knew I was going to finish. And that's what I had to keep thinking to myself that you trained for this, you know, this is your moment. You're probably not coming back so enjoy this, you know, get happy because, you know, this something to really just a have a heart full of joy.

BLOCK: I gather, Demi, you weren't physically injured in the bombings last year but you did experience post-traumatic stress disorder. And I wonder how that manifested itself and how you got through that.

CLARK: It was a lot of different ways. Over the course of the year, you know, everything from kind of like a social anxiety disorder-type manifestation where I just didn't want to go out, I certainly didn't want to - we moved and I didn't really want to meet new people. Running was really the only thing that got me out of it.

You know, running had so many universal truths to it and strengths to it that help bond people together. And now I feel like the Charleston running community kind of embraced me since we moved and I feel like I could really be a joiner in that. Again, this is such a moment for moving on, you know, and I hope it is for so many other people that are here today.

BLOCK: I've got to ask you about the tattoo you got one month after the Boston Marathon last year. It's on your right shoulder. What does it say?

CLARK: Right. It says still I rise.

BLOCK: Still I rise.

CLARK: So, tribute to Maya Angelou. But it was just so poignant to me. It was - runners get things on their backs, you know. We read things on backs because we run and we have to follow someone or follow a bunch of people for 26.2 miles. So it's nice to read things. So, you know, I just thought it was poignant for all the people behind me and then all of us to just have to get back up again to rise back up. And here we all are, you know, and it's just such a triumphant day.

BLOCK: Well, Miss Clark, congratulations on your marathon finish and all the best. Get some rest.

CLARK: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

BLOCK: That's Demi Clark of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Last year, she was one of the last runners to record a finish time in Boston, four hours and six minutes. She completed the marathon today in four hours, one minute, 15 seconds.

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