Marathon runner Pedro Rojas
Pedro Rojas at mile nine of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Pedro Rojas at mile nine of the 2013 Boston Marathon

Would I run the Boston Marathon again?

That is the question asked by family and friends who know that last Monday I ran the centennial race.

For those who are lovers of the sport -the marathon- getting to run in Boston is like reaching the Olympics. Therefore the effervescence and overflowing enthusiasm wrapped the 27,000 runners as we waited for the whistle of departure and the hundreds of thousands of fans who would accompany us in our attempt to achieve personal glory and crossing the line in the magical city of Boston.

A personal glory, because except for a dozen elite runners, the rest of us jump into this adventure in a race against ourselves, the clock or the years.

The long hills of Hopkinton gave way to quaint villages, and suddenly the madness: young Wellesley College girls and their eccentric enthusiasm at mile 13 will renew anyone’s energy. They call and offer kisses, propose marriage, give you their phone numbers and everything you can imagine, but all within a healthy support for the marathoners.

Suddenly it’s back to reality. As we get to the hills of Newton, three miles and a half make you forget the Wellesley girls. And if that was not enough”” Heartbreak Hill. Its name says it all. Tony Bennett left his in San Francisco, I left mine here.

And we’re close to the city, the crowd becomes more compact, the applause and shouts louder and the feeling that “if I got this far, I can finish.”

A few minutes more and we pass the symbolic Citgo sign, and we just need one more mile. One mile.

In my case, I crossed the finish line in Boylston Avenue 3 hours and 46 minutes after leaving Hopkinton. I was finally able to put the fourth Boston medal around my neck, recover a bit and change into dry clothes. While I was in the closed shed with other male runners, two blocks from the finish, a roar shook us all. We looked at each other, but after no hearing nothing else, we each went about our business. A few seconds more, and the second bombing rumbled.

Outside the shed there was no panic among the public as the incident focused on the arrival area, which they make you leave as soon as you pick up your belongings. But police and volunteers were moving in a hurry. Already ambulance sirens and police patrols were deafening. They came from all sides.

Public transport and cell pones (except texting) were immediately paralyzed.

Rumors and speculation surfaced. Since the attack hit so suddenly, there was nothing concrete, not even for the authorities, who immediately began a systematic evacuation of the entire area near the finish line.

Then ensued the long hours glued to the TV, internet and phone finding out more details and talking to those who wanted to know how I was.

The idyllic image of the Boston Marathon was badly injured by Machiavellian minds. What those minds did not count on was the response to a single voice of a city, a state and a country in support of their victims.

The answer to the initial question is a resounding “yes.” The bad guys can make us fall, we can doubt our capacity, our strength, but we can win the race.
Pedro Rojas is co-editor and publisher of Boyle Heights Beat, a marathon runner and former executive editor of La Opinión, the Spanish language daily newspaper.

This story was originally published in HuffPost Voces.

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