For four straight years, Islander Rhonda Glass had been a staple at the Boston Marathon. A major marathon runners like her strived to be in, Glass loved the city and the crowds along the course. Not to mention she had a sister who lived in Maryland, so Glass could take her daughter to Boston for the family members to meet. But she skipped the Boston Marathon last year, opting to run a 54-mile race in South Africa instead.
And then, the bombings. Glass recalled finding out about the events at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
“I was in shock,” she said. “I never thought something like that would happen. I had mixed emotions, both angry and sad.”
After the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon, Glass decided to join the ‘Boston Strong’, competing last week in the 2014 Boston Marathon. Also competing was Glass’ friend and fellow Islander, Susan Empey.
“It’s just like anything else, like 9/11. You can’t let it dictate your life,” Glass said. “I signed up the first day, I didn’t hesitate. Everyone came back to run it.”
Glass met up with Empey in Boston, taking the bus together and hanging out at Athletes’ Village. Empey had participated in the Boston Marathon in 2005 and because of the events that transpired last year, she decided to go back again this year. She had glowing things to say of her experience this year, despite admitting it was her toughest marathon.
“It was truly the most inspiring marathon I’ve ever done,” said Empey. “The experience was unreal. Boston is known for having amazing crowd support. This year, there was such intense support from the crowd that was immeasurable, with cheers along the course, and cheers of ‘Boston Strong.’”
Empey said that if she started to fade, the crowd support and fellow participants would inspire her to keep her going. She mentioned running alongside people with prosthetic legs.
“I don’t know if they were affected from last year, but that was inspiring,” she said. “Here was someone who literally lost a leg, it quickly puts in perspective your pain and fatigue.”
Both Glass and Empey said there was a more noticeable police presence, but neither felt it interfered with their experience, nor were they nervous about participating. Empey said security was very controlled and that because of the preparation, the city was probably the safest place in the country on that day.
“There was definitely more security, but they weren’t intrusive,” said Glass. “There were checkers all around and on buses. You definitely noticed it. But I wasn’t nervous. I trusted the city would do its best, and you can’t let something like that hold you back.”
Empey said one of the most moving parts of the race was at Athletes’ Village, when 36,000 had a moment of silence before the race. “36,000 silent and all you heard were sniffles,” she said. “It was a very sober way to start the event.”
Glass said she saw a lot of people running in the 2013 jackets runners were given at last year’s marathon, while the last stretch of the race, where the bombing happened last year, stretched deep with specatators. She said the whole city made the marathon a weekend celebration.
“Boston rallied like it never had before. It was great to be a part of the whole scene, everyone was so positive and unified and supportive of the event,” she said.
Empey said she’d be proud if she were a Bostonian, because they put on an amazing event.
“It really was the most inspiring, memorable marathon I’ve ever done. I was really happy to be a part of it.”
The stars and stripes wave high from a ladder in Boston during the weekend of the Boston Marathon, April 18-21 (photo courtesy of Susan Empey).