I remember every step of that run. I do. When I tell that to people, they don't believe me. But I remember every single step. In fact, I remember almost every run the three months leading up to it. It was April 20, 1987 and it was my first Boston Marathon.
The news these past weeks has been full of the events, the stories, and the people involved in the bombings that took place on April 15, 2013. It was the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, which is now linked to events that are not of its own choosing.
Boston isn't like every other marathon. Boston requires you to qualify within the previous 18 months (Yes, there are a few back-door ways into the race). That means you have to run another marathon under a certain time, based on your age. The only other way to officially run is to be invited. For most marathon runners, it is their Olympic trials. It becomes a personal pursuit and endeavor unlike what they may ever again pursue in running. Yes, personal.
After graduating from college in 1985, I immediately set my sights on qualifying for Boston. At the time, a sub 2 hour, 50 minute marathon was required. I had run three marathons in the low 2:50 range but had not quite broken that time due to college racing commitments. But now I was free to expand and focus. And focus I did. The April after college graduation, I ran 2:46:23 at the now-defunct Jim Thorpe Marathon in Carlisle, Pa., placing 6th overall. It was on to the 1987 Boston Marathon!
What happened last month has had a profoundly sad impact on many of my running and non-running friends. When a crisis occurs, we each internalize it differently, with different emotions. Anger (rage), sadness, fear, disassociation, morbid curiosity, and a host of other thoughts and feelings percolate in us. For me, and this is just me, the bombings felt like a personal attack. I know those spots, that road, the finish line and those spectators.
Running is a personal, singular sport. We can run on a team, we can run for a logo, but we are solely responsible for the outcome of our race. Much as we will never be able to view the skyline of New York City the same way, most of us will never be able to view this race, OUR race, the same way, either.
In 1987, I spent a good 15 weeks preparing to run the race of my life. I was living outside State College, Pa., and had the opportunity to prepare well. The local newspaper wrote a story on my pursuit. My employer provided me extra "bonus" money for the trip (as well as a radar detector for the drive up and back). And I even learned how to set the VCR to record (ESPN used to carry the race live). I recall the drive into Hopkinton (the starting town for the point-to-point race). And yes, when the gun went off and the helicopters whirled upward, I recall every step of my 26 mile, 385 yard pilgrimage back to the city of Boston. 2:47:12 was the time, 553rd place overall. Personal.
Page 2 of 2 - I've been back numerous times since then (twice to race the marathon, in 1988 and 1991), once to spectate my sister-in-law's first Boston (she has a similar "personal" experience with this race), and other times for other reasons. I love Boston and will always feel its tug on me, especially each April. Running is personal. It's why we run.
Former Lock Haven University stand-out runner Andy Shearer is the Middletown Athletic Club secretary/treasurer. Shearer has been running since 1978.