Local Marathon Runners on Boston Bombings

Chicago Tonight spoke with local marathon runners to get their reaction to the Boston Marathon bombings. Here's what they had to say:

Robert Becker

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How many marathons have you run in the past? Can you describe security from previous marathons?

I’ve done three total: two in Chicago, one in New York. I’ve never noticed security at a function like that because you are in a big, public setting so it seems like it would be hard to prevent anything going wrong. I never notice security in general because it’s never been a concern for me.

Actually, when I saw some security guards at the finish line at a marathon one time, it made me uneasy. I was thinking, what are they doing there? It doesn’t necessarily mean they are there for safety.

Can you describe your initial reaction after first hearing about the Boston Marathon bombings?

I have a number of friends who were running in the marathon so I ended up calling them to make sure they were all right. I had one friend who was about a block away with her whole family and her fiancé, and they witnessed everything. I thought someone was joking when they first told me. In Boston, it’s the most prestigious marathon so I guess someone was trying to send a message. I don’t know what message that was exactly. It was very shocking to hear that. Thankfully, all my friends were fine.

Are you participating in the Chicago Marathon in October?

I am doing Chicago this year. And I’m doing it with a big group of friends. I’m definitely still going to run. I will be more self aware, but there’s no way to prevent something form happening from my end. I’m going about it as business as usual. By October, we will have much better security in place. Once it happens once, it will all be in place. It takes something like this to open up a lot of people’s eyes to say we are not as comfortable in a place as we thought we were.

Are you concerned about your safety at this year’s marathon? Are you concerned by lack of security here, or are you confident that Chicago will ramp up security efforts after Boston events?

I think they will ramp security up, but in my mind it’s very difficult to prevent something like that. What is the added security going to do? They are going to make people feel safer, whether they actually are or not. It’s just added emotion for an event that’s already filled with emotions. People are feeling, can I do this, can I make it? Crossing the finish line, the last thing you want to be thinking about is something bad happening.

When I crossed the finish line in 2009 at the Chicago Marathon, it was one of the greatest athletic achievements that I have. Now, crossing it, I will be looking around and wondering what might happen. It dilutes the feeling of success and is another thing to worry about when you should be worrying about achieving the goal you set out for. Mentally, it screws with a lot of people.

I would take extra precautions if there’s something I can do to feel safe. But I’m uncertain as to what can be done. I’m going to show up and hope for the best.

Will it make you feel safer to see extra security at the Chicago Marathon this year?

Yeah, I think it will make me feel safer but it will also remind me about what happened in Boston. It’s a little more worrisome. They need added security but there are so many people there, you would need thousands of security guards to monitor everybody and that may not realistic or a good use of taxpayer money.

Do you know anyone who is pulling out of the race because of the Boston bombings?

I have one friend who said he was pulling out. But we need him for the running group and we convinced him and motivated him that we are doing this together. It’s all of us or none of us, so he is back on board. We made sure we didn’t lose anybody.

I’ve also got some friends thinking about pulling out now because they haven’t started training yet. Year-round runners aren’t thinking of pulling out, but the people who haven’t started training yet may be hesitating. Right now is when people start training for the Chicago Marathon. So it’s a bad time for those people already questioning whether they can do it physically and mentally. Now, it adds more confusion on the mental part.

Megan Diaz:

How would you characterize yourself as a runner? How many marathons or road races have you run?

I am not a serious runner in the sense that I compete, but I am serious in the sense that I plan my life around my running. I ran my first half marathon in May 2009 (the Magellan Spring Half), along with some other smaller races. I ran the Chicago Half and Chicago Marathon in 2010, again along with some other smaller races. In 2011, I again ran the Chicago Half Marathon and other smaller races.  In 2012, I ran 12 half marathons, and plan to run five half marathons and another full marathon in 2013.

As a runner, what were your initial thoughts when you heard the news of yesterday’s bombings?

Disbelief, followed by sadness. I was working at the library when I saw the news on my computer, and I just couldn't believe what my eyes were seeing. I never would have imagined that an event that attracts millions of people from all over the world would be an opportunity for a bombing. I still don't know how to comprehend what happened. This was my Facebook status this morning:

"I have been deeply saddened since yesterday, I find myself distracted and upset. But I got up this morning and went for a run, and I will continue to do so. I will wake up on Sundays and go for long runs. I will continue to watch what I eat and limit my alcohol intake. Why you ask? Because I love running. I will continue to show up to half marathons and marathons, I will continue to strive to one day run the Boston Marathon. It’s hard to see my sport as a crime scene, but I will continue to run. To all my runner friends out there also struggling with this, go out for a run. You will find comfort in your breathing and your stride, just like you always do. My thoughts are with all the runners, and loyal spectators of Boston."

As someone who participates in large races regularly, is race safety and security something that you’ve ever been concerned about in the past?

I have always been wary of large crowds. I just don't like them, but I have never been worried about my security. My worries are more like: will there be enough bathrooms? Paramedics? Water stations? Nutrition bars? And my pessimist self has always somewhat worried about crowd control, but that being said, never have I worried about an attack.

So you plan to continue to run and hope to complete the Boston Marathon someday. But in light of the bombings, do you have any concerns about participating in large road races or marathons in the future?

This is a hard question to answer. Yesterday, I was worried out of my mind, but today I am in a different place. I don't think this will stop me from running, but I believe it might be a distraction that might haunt me for a while. Racing provides such a different experience than simply going out for a run, and I will always crave being at races. Crowds, signs, costumes, music, the finish line - it is all an amazing experience.

Are you concerned by how the likely increases in security that will be implemented in response to the bombings might impact future events of this kind?

Simply put, I just don't want this to become TSA and airport security. I don't want a security line for a race. I don't even want to imagine what that would be like. I don't want to not trust my fellow runners, but I can't help but worry a little on how security will move forward. I don't think there is an easy solution.

Jason Sellers:

How many marathons have you run in the past? Can you describe security from previous marathons?

Five. Security for the marathon depends on the location. In Lake Tahoe for example, I don’t recall there being any, but that was eight years ago. In New York, a year ago there was a lot of security, but there is always a lot of security in New York. It’s just the nature of the beast.

Are you registered for the Chicago Marathon in October?

Technically, no. However, I was told verbally that I had a spot. Currently I am waiting on my acceptance e-mail.

Are you still planning to participate after Boston bombings?

Not running never crossed my mind.

After you heard about the Boston marathon bombings, can you describe your immediate thoughts/reaction?

It’s so sad. You feel so much for the people that died or were injured, and their families. You feel for the people that watched this terrible event. And, as a runner, I feel for the people that spent months training only to be stopped before completing their goal.

Are you concerned about your safety after yesterday?

Not at all.

Are you concerned by lack of security here, or are you confident that Chicago will ramp up security efforts after Boston events?

I am sure that Chicago will ramp up security; even the Tahoe Marathon will ramp up security. Let’s face it: they’ll probably add extra security to next year’s Shamrock Shuffle.

Will you be taking any extra precautions because of what happened in Boston?

No, I've got far too much training to do to think about that.

Drew Kann and Yasmin Rammohan contributed to this report.

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