, Newburyport, MA

April 18, 2013

Winner's Circle member and Port resident reflects on marathon

By Sharon Chase

---- — Editor’s note: Newburyport resident Sharon Chase, a member of the Winner’s Circle Running Club, took a waiver at the 2012 Boston Marathon, postponing her entry one year after discovering she fractured her hip in the months leading up to the race. Anna Jaques Hospital doctor Bob Keller placed three pins in Chase’s hip in December of 2012, and she began training for this year’s marathon. She made it to the 21.5-mile mark Monday before the race was canceled due to the two explosions at the finish line. Below is an excerpt from her letter to the editor.

“It’s Tuesday at 4 a.m., and I’m having a real hard time sleeping. I’m hoping the women on the evacuation bus found their families. The runners who were nearly spent just after Heartbreak Hill at Mile 21.5 were stopped in their tracks. A line of white jackets ran out in front of us, and were followed by other people dragging metal fences to block our way.

“They told us there was an incident at the finish line, nothing more. That’s all they would tell. This was a medical stop until now. There were doctors prepared to take a few runners at a time for heat exhaustion, muscle cramps, wound bandaging, hydration. They had some foil blankets. They weren’t the finish line. They weren’t equipped to be the finish line.

“We were in the road with nowhere to go. We shared the three medic’s chairs, rocks, curbs, alternating with standing to prevent stiffening, hoping the race would somehow resume. As other runners caught up, our numbers grew. All of our phones were dead or dying. My phone had my running program on it, and was basically out of juice, but I got a message from my husband, Tom. It said, ‘Two bombs went off here.’

“Then I couldn’t reach him anymore. Then my phone died. No one with me knew anything. Those in charge refused to tell us anything. I hoped the problem was my phone because the power was so low. Or were there three bombs? Was that why Tom’s phone wasn’t working?

“I used someone else’s phone. Tom’s phone was still dead. I was the only one to get that message. I called my son at home and asked him to keep trying to reach Tom.

Because of what I’ve been thru over the past two years, I was extremely careful during the race and was still at 90 percent except for blisters, so I was lucky. But we were all wet, and the wind was there after the hill, and we couldn’t just wait there. It was getting cooler. Tom was my only contact from the 40 people I’d come on the bus with. People near me were from other countries with language issues, and other states. I myself am local and felt helpless, I can’t imagine how they were feeling.

“A Boston College faculty member who was running invited us to find help down the hill at BC. We all ended up in St. Ignatius down the street. In the church, it was very calm, but everyone had some level of exhaustion, blisters, thirst or arthritis. We were all in a state of mental shock. Several BAA volunteers are members of my running club, The Winner’s Circle Running Club in Salisbury, and they found me and Steve Reid in church, and put me back in contact with my husband. They stayed with me until I was on a bus. There was so much relief for me. I was so lucky. Others were still crying in alcoves.

“The care we got at the church was A-1. The level of attention could not be raised. The help was extraordinary. The kids from BC were spectacular and in charge. The state and local police, the medics, all awesome. We were given space blankets, drinks, snacks, hot pasta. After a few hours they loaded us all into buses and gave our buses a 10-15 SUV/motorcycle escort to the castle in the darkening hours. The amount of blue lights was surreal.

“On the way back to Boston, streets were closed down for us ahead of time, and we drove on the left side, then the right, then through traffic lights without slowing like a President being rushed out of a war zone. The cars of Boston had been parted and stopped far ahead of us like the Red Sea.

“We were a half a dozen buses of exhausted refugee runners hoping to find our loved ones in Boston, loved ones who were now more like snowflakes in the shaken snow globe called Boston. Every call on borrowed phones had our people somewhere other than where we expected them since everything close to the finish was evacuated. I don’t know the streets of Boston. I doubt the Spaniard or Philadelphian knew either, or the girl from Washington. I could never have walked off and found anyone, especially with the temperature dropping and hardly any clothes on.

“But I knew my husband and people were waiting for me. I hope everyone wrapped in foil blankets still in their running clothes, and four hours after finishing, found their loved ones as they stood in the dark outside the Castle in Boston. I refuse to let our marathon be taken by terrorists. God bless the first responders, the second responders, the doctors, medics, all the staff, all the volunteers from BC, from BAA, from running clubs, from everywhere, and God bless everybody hurt. This was to be my last race, but I’m not quitting anymore. It turned my resign into resolve. I am out of retirement.”