Boston Marathon remembered

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‘I went straight to my room and cried,’ says athlete

By Becky Barnes


It’s known as Tax Day, Patriot’s Day, Marathon Day, and now, forevermore April 15 will be known as the Day of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Seasoned athlete and five-time Boston Marathon runner Debbie Biddle said her memories of the marathon fanfare has forever been marred by the bombing that she watched over and over on television.

Biddle was not in Boston on Monday. In fact, she hasn’t participated in the Boston Marathon for 17 years, but she has always remembered what it was like to make the turn onto Boylston Street. After the turn, runners can see the oversized banner that marks the end of the over 26-mile run along with hundreds of people cheering and applauding as runners made the final sprint.

“I’ve always thought of the Boston Marathon as one of my biggest accomplishments as a runner,” Biddle said, wearing her Boston Marathon centennial sweatshirt as a memorial to Monday’s tragedy.

Biddle, a teacher at Harrison County High School, said she had the marathon streaming on her phone throughout the day and would catch a glimpse of the early finishers. However, after the winners finished, the stream went dark. 

She said at the end of the school day she was ready to go home and lookup the results of some of her friends and acquaintances.

It wasn’t until Biddle left school and was at home that she saw the macabre events in the aftermath of two bombs that detonated along the memorable Boylston Street.

“I went straight to my room and cried,” Biddle said with tears still held in check as she talked about her experience and that of some of the people she sees regularly at various runs.

As she talked about the horrific events that occurred during the 2013 Boston event, she scrolled through her phone looking for finishing times so she could determine how far into the race the bombing had occurred.

At the 3:18 mark, Biddle noted that Varinka Barbinie Ensminger, who previously won the Born to Run in Cynthiana, had finished the race before the attack.

Another acquaintance, Jean Schmidt finished the race and was waiting at the finish line for her sister, whom she suspected was about 20 minutes behind her.

The bomb blasts occurred between the sisters. Halting Schmidt’s sibling from getting to the end. She was stopped before she reached the bombed Boylston area.

Biddle said there were about 100 runners from Kentucky among the nearly 27,000 runners in Boston. As of Tuesday afternoon, she was unable to determine how many of those had finished or were stopped like Schmidt’s sister.

Unlike most road races, runners for the Boston Marathon must qualify by earning certain times in other big races.

Biddle said she would like to see those who weren’t able to finish the 2013 race be pre-qualified for the 2014 event.

Biddle anticipates that there will be a strong turn-out for the 2014 event.

Biddle said she and her family have received numerous calls and text messages to check on Biddle and whether she was in Boston.

Her last trip was for the 100th running of the marathon in 1996.

She described the atmosphere as almost festival-like. There were a few booths set up along the route. Traditionally, the Boston Red Sox would be playing a game while the run was going on.

Just past the stadium, a large Citgo sign was always welcomed by runners. It meant they had only one more mile to the finish.

Certainly the 2013 bombing will now be etched into the runners’ minds as they join the field of runners in the future.

However, Biddle said she doubted that participation would decline.

“You can’t just stop doing everything,” Biddle said. “Seventeen years ago, I never thought about any of this stuff. Times have changed a lot.”

She said she doesn’t understand why the innocents of a marathon were the target of such a vicious attack. And, why would terrorists chose that point in the race rather that the start where more people would be concentrated?

She said the bombs were apparently set up on the opposite side from where spectator bleachers are set up.

 “It just doesn’t make any sense,” Biddle said sadly, adding: “It was small but it was meant to do a lot of damage.”