Continuing to run is the way to move forward
Local women in Boston during marathon bombings
Tuesday, April 23, 2013 9:43 AM
Sometimes, in order to keep from running, you need to continue running.
Lynn Wilbur shows off the medal she received from running the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15. She crossed the finish line and was returning to her hotel by the time the explosions took place.
"That's how they win, is by altering our behavior. I think it will bind us stronger than ever," shared runner Lynn Wilbur, who ran in the 2013 Boston Marathon and experienced first-hand what many people only saw through television.
Lynn, who grew up near Prosper and now lives in Minneapolis with her own family, was not physically injured from the double bombings on April 15. However, she, her mother, Dorothy Coon of Canton, and her aunt, Harriet Lawston of Lanesboro, are forever changed from an experience which was much more taxing to many people than a marathon itself.
Lynn, 44, went to elementary school in Canton and high school at North Winneshiek in Iowa. She loved running and participated in track during high school where she ran the mile and two-mile races.
She ran her first marathon in 1995 when she was 26 and "loved it." She has her mind made up that she will continue running for as long as she is able.
This past year, Lynn underwent surgery in both of her feet, but still felt like she would be able to make it back to running marathons. It had been a 10-month break since her surgery, but she decided to try for the Boston Marathon. She had run Boston in 2000, but a couple years before she had surgery, was told by her mother that she and her sister wanted to go see Boston.
"I said, 'Well, go have fun,' but I knew they wanted to go for a marathon and that involved my going and running," she recalled laughing.
"We had been to 10 before and they were all good experiences," shared Dorothy. Dorothy asked her sister, Harriet, to come with and they started planning the trip last summer. They left for Boston a few days early in order to be able to do some sight-seeing before the race day.
"The city was very welcoming, very clean and very comfortable," shared Harriet. "We felt like welcome guests."
The day of the race was full of the kind of energy that Dorothy said she feels at each race she attends. "It's a happy thing. You don't have to know the person running by in order to cheer for them. It's a very encouraging atmosphere."
Harriet said she noticed the crowd in Boston was very energized, always cheering and rooting for the runners. The Boston Marathon is always run on Patriot's Day, or "Marathon Monday," and it is a civic holiday for the state of Massachusetts. This year, over 23,000 participants contributed to what Lynn described as a "strong energy."
There are so many people who run the race that the runners are separated into three waves. Wilbur said she was in the third and final wave to begin the marathon.
Wilbur said she knew this marathon would be one of tougher ones she would run, because she was coming back from an injury. However, she admitted she felt fine during the race even though her feet didn't feel the greatest. "I knew it wasn't going to be my best time, but I was happy to be where I was," she shared.
Both Dorothy and Harriet stationed themselves by the 22-mile marker, waited, and hoped that Wilbur would show up. When she did, Dorothy noted that she was doing great for her first marathon since surgery. The group got a picture taken together and Wilbur started back up again to finish the remaining 4.2 miles.
"We decided to ride back to downtown and see if we could get ahead of her and see her before the finish," recalled Dorothy. She and Harriet took the Boston subway system, which is part of the larger transportation system known as The T. The cars were above ground and they could see the runners passing the car. Instead of going to the finish line, they decided to head back to their hotel, which was their original designated meeting place with Wilbur after the race.
Meanwhile, Lynn had the finish line in her sight. "The last few blocks I felt such gratitude," she said explaining that after her surgery, she hadn't known if she would be able to run a marathon again. She finished in 4 hours and 11 minutes.
After finishing, obtaining her medal, and grabbing water, she continued walking past the finish line. Lynn said she was a block and a half away from the finish line when she heard the first explosion.
"I've never liked loud noises," she said adding that most of the runners around her stopped and looked back, wondering what was going on.
Then, the second bomb went off. "Once I saw the smoke, I knew it was not good," said Lynn. For a moment, she considered going back to the finish line to see if she could help. Lynn works in a hospital, but not as an emergency technician. Realizing she was in no state to be helpful after running a marathon, she decided to stick with the original plan and head back to the hotel. She also knew that she had to get in contact with her mom and Harriet. "I needed to know that mom and Harriet were safe."
Wilbur's mother and aunt were still on the T when she called. Dorothy answered her phone, heard Lynn say "Mom," and then the line went dead. They didn't know it at the time, but the city had shut down much of the cell-phone service to prevent the accidental detonation of another potential bomb.
Dorothy and Harriet still knew nothing about the bombings and didn't get too concerned about the call being dropped; they knew they would keep heading toward the hotel. But they didn't get far. Their subway car pulled into Kenmore Station and everyone was told that the car was out of service and and had to get off.
"We figured we would get on the next one," shared Dorothy. The next one was evacuated as well and additional instructions were given to leave the station.
"We had no idea why we were being evacuated," recalled Dorothy. "Once we got out onto the street, the word started to spread that there had been bombs."
That news, coupled with many ambulances and police cars screaming past made the two realize "something major had happened." They began what would prove to be an hour-and-a-half-long trek back to the Omni Parker House hotel.
The worry that something had happened to Lynn started to mount between the two women. It would be a half-hour before Dorothy would receive a phone call from her son, Russell, in Cold Spring, Minn. He had successfully made contact with Lynn and was letting them know she was okay.
Lynn had been worried as well, especially when she got back to the hotel and saw that they hadn't returned. "I kept trying to call them, but I couldn't get through. That's when my brother texted me."
Until Dorothy and Harriet made it back to the hotel, they kept in direct contact with Lynn. When the two ladies came through the hotel's revolving door, they and Lynn gathered in an embrace and let the emotions flow. "It felt so good to be together again," described Wilbur.
The three of them thought they would be able to go out and grab a bite to eat. At the first place they went to, the store owner came out and explained that the police were asking people not to go out on the streets.
So, instead, they went back to the hotel lounge, which was serving food for all of the marathoners staying there. While paying close attention to the news updates on the television, they were able to mingle with the other marathon runners there.
"It struck me how marathoners are such a community," stated Dorothy. "Everyone was asking how you were doing and if your family was okay. The contact between people increased a lot."
Lynn agreed, adding that marathoners are especially at ease around each other. "There was a camaraderie that is normally present."
Although they were initially worried about their flight being cancelled, the three were able to fly out of Boston Tuesday evening as was their original plan.
Returning home cast the still-raw experience in a different light. "I was very glad to be home," shared Harriet, while also admitting that she will be a little bit more cautious about taking risks in large crowds.
She explained, "Here in Minnesota, we are very secure. Our friends and family have shown us comfort and security. The bombings didn't affect me like the ones who lost their limbs or their lives."
She mentioned that being in Boston at the time really brought everything to a more true and factual point instead of watching everything through television.
Dorothy called it a life-changing event. "I'll be looking around more. I was a pretty small-town, trusting girl here and a lot of that is taken away," she said. "I'm mostly thankful that the three of us are okay and I pray for those who are injured and who lost family members."
As a runner, the recovery process will be a little different for Lynn. She said that immediately after the bombings, she thought that she would never go back. The next morning, she changed her mind. If she qualifies, Lynn said, "I'm definitely coming back."
Becoming an even stronger group is something Lynn foresees happening within the marathon community. "So many will want to run Boston next year," she said.
That's the key. The way to make sure the terrorists don't win, she said, is to not let their actions change one's behavior, particularly if the behavior is just running 26.2 miles.
Wilbur is already planning on signing up for the Minneapolis Marathon in June and the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon next fall.
Continuing to run is what she does. Six weeks after the tragedies of 9/11, she and her husband, Alan Schultz, ran in the New York City Marathon.
She expects security to be increased, but is perfectly fine with it. Then she can focus on what is most important to her, which is "putting one foot in front of the other." For the marathoners of Boston and of the world, continuing to run will always be the way forward.