It was 10 minutes after Toronto doctor Jean Marmoreo had established yet another running milestone by completing the Boston Marathon when the first of two bombs exploded near the finish line.
“I wasn’t fast, I was lucky,” Marmoreo said of her close encounter with the deadly terrorist attack of April 15 that killed three and injured hundreds of others.
While the tragedy has had a profound affect on Marmoreo and others who were there, the event has also helped to galvanize those who participate in long-distance running events, a forum in Toronto heard on Wednesday.
The latest instalment of the Ramsay Talks speaker series focused on the venerable sporting event and what the fallout might be from the horrific events that unfolded on April 15.
The speakers included several well-respected figures in the world of marathon running, including Marmoreo, a 70-year-old who placed first in her age group (70-74) at Boston in a time of 3 hours, 48 minutes, 57 seconds.
The victory added to her series of age-group wins at the Boston Marathon, after finishing first in the women aged 65-69 category for three years running, beginning in 2009.
The Toronto physician noted that qualifying for the Boston Marathon is no easy task. She said doing so for next year’s event has now taken on even more significance given what transpired last month.
“I love this course, I love its challenges, I love the organization, I love the efficiency,” Marmoreo said. “The fact that I finished 10 minutes ahead of the blast only meant that me, like 26,000 other runners, knew nothing about what had happened.
“It was only after I got back to my hotel room and saw the TV that I realized that what we had taken for cannon fire celebrating Patriots’ Day in Boston was in fact the two IEDs at the finish line targeting spectators and family members.”
The luncheon also heard from Kathrine Switzer, the famed women’s marathon pioneer who was the first female to run in a Boston Marathon, back in 1967, where she almost got physically tossed from the course while she was running by one of the race directors.
Switzer, now a television broadcaster and the co-author of the book 26.2 Marathon Stories, said she has watched marathon running grow from what she described as “a very geeky little sport” into an activity that has gained huge popularity around the world.
She said that while events like the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon have grown into major media showcases, it is the same reason they are now regarded as “a terrorist’s ideal photo op.”
Still, she said the bomb blasts at Boston will not keep the runners away.
“We’ve had an awakening,” Switzer said. “What are our resolutions for this? For the terrorists, there is no excuse, and no reason. Full stop.
“For the runners there is only more determination to run. Running is about freedom, empowerment and fearlessness. And I saw the day as an example to the rest of the world. And that is the runner’s resolution.”
The forum also heard from Joann Flaminio, the president of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the race each year.
“We don’t really see this as an attack on the Boston Marathon or running per se,” she said. “But I think what those who did this didn’t understand is that we’ve truly galvanized a worldwide support team of anyone who laces up a pair of sneakers to get some exercise.”