A year after bombs transformed the jubilant scene at the finish line, three Harbor runners will return to compete in the Boston Marathon on Monday. Another will join them for the first time.
“I’m excited,” Tiffany Schweppe of Montesano said. “I’m not nervous, security-wise. I think it will be an emotional experience. It’s hard to run and cry, so I’m hoping I can hold it together.”
Last year, her husband, Todd, had to drag her away from a gathering area where they were taking photos after two explosions rocked the finish line minutes after she crossed it.
“I wasn’t getting that it was bombs, that wasn’t my mindset at all. So I wasn’t hurrying. But he got that it was something bad,” she said after the race.
Two homemade bombs detonated by two brothers killed three people last year and injured more than 260.
Aberdeen residents Don Beatty and Bob Martin were well away from the scene when the bombs went off, but remember the scenes of chaos that followed.
Franzine Potts, also of Aberdeen, trained with her “best running friend” Schweppe, but missed qualifying for Boston last year.
“Even being there at work and following her that day and hearing about the attacks — it was very emotional for me,” Potts recalled. “From the time that it happened, I knew that, no matter what, I was going to qualify this year and come back with her.”
She makes her Boston Marathon debut Monday after qualifying last summer.
Martin said watching retrospectives, from scenes of the explosions to the shooting of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department Officer Sean Collier, is an emotional experience for him and his wife, Marcy.
“We try to catch most all of it. We’re pretty into it,” Martin said. “That brings pretty good emotion to a guy. If stuff like that doesn’t affect you, I don’t think you’re human.”
This will be Martin’s eighth time running Boston, but for the first time, the veteran isn’t sure what to expect.
“There’s a lot of uncertainties with what’s going to happen there this year. They have real high security there every year, but I just expect so much more this year.”
Beatty said he’s concerned about people like the man arrested with two backpacks near the finish line this week. The backpacks were detonated by authorities, though one was believed to contain a rice cooker full of confetti, the other with photography equipment.
“That’s my concern, some nut or copycat nut is going to go and cause problems,” Beatty said. “But there’s going to be so much security, the police force is going to be twice what it was last year, they’re going to be searching everyone’s backpacks.”
Schweppe said she’s avoided the coverage for the most part, largely to keep her four children, ages 3 through 8, shielded from it.
“I worry about them seeing too much of it. I don’t want them to worry about me going back,” she said.
Potts hasn’t been able to escape that with her 7-year-old daughter, but said it’s allowed them to talk about an important life lesson.
“There’s people in the world that try to deter you from doing things that are important to you … (and) just because someone is trying to scare you and terrorize you doesn’t mean you should let that stop you,” Potts said.
Regardless of their mixed feelings, all said they are determined and enthusiastic to make their way through the marathon.
“It’s important to me to go back here for one reason: Because if I don’t go back, I think the terrorists have proved their point,” Beatty added. “At this point, I can’t see any way I can not go back. We’ve got to stand up as Americans.”
Martin said he’s going back to support other runners, and share in the deep camaraderie he’s always enjoyed with marathon runners — despite undergoing knee surgery seven weeks ago. “I’m still going back and going to participate. I’m probably going to walk a lot of it this year, but I’m still going to go participate. They’re not going to defeat us, as runners.”
Beatty said he’s taking extra steps this year to prepare. Runners are required to write emergency contact numbers on their bibs, but he’s also leaving his itinerary and contact information with multiple people before he goes, just in case. “Last year people had trouble getting ahold of me,” he said.
Already in Boston, Potts said she’s been overwhelmed by the huge crowds of people and the outpouring of support for the runners. One church had volunteers crochet scarves in the marathon’s colors, she said. They gave them out to runners passing by, telling them “ ‘We’re wrapping you in strength and courage.’ … It’s kind of their way of praying for the safety of the runners. It’s the sweetest thing. It’s really cool to be a part of it.”
Security updates will change some elements of the race — no unofficial runners will be allowed, no unregistered military members will be allowed to walk along and only those with invitations from the Boston Athletic Association will be allowed in the grandstands at the finish, according to Runner’s World. Runners will not be allowed to carry bags or Camelbaks and the starting line will be “a secure area” only for runners and other people with credentials.
For Martin, one thing will be the same: His focus is on the finish.
“The only thing I’m doing is trying to get to the finish line,” Martin said. “It may be dark before I get there, but I’m going to make it to the finish line.”
Brionna Friedrich: 360-537-3933 or firstname.lastname@example.org and @DW_Brionna on Twitter.