Nearly 300 runners from the Austin area will be participating in the Boston Marathon today. It’s a group undeterred by two explosions that ripped through the crowds at the race last year, killing three spectators and wounding more than 260 others.
For many runners, the marathon ended abruptly. Race organizers invited most of those athletes back to run again this year. One Austinite isn’t passing up that chance.
Michael Breen was feeling dehydrated as he neared the end of the Boston Marathon last year. He was cramping up, and had fallen off of his goal pace. Then he heard two loud booms that seemed out of place—even on Patriot’s Day. He looked achingly down Boylston Street to where the finish line should have been.
“All I could see was a wall of smoke. And still I was running, and three police officers came out of the smoke and basically stopped everybody,” Breen says.
Breen’s wife, Anna Lozano, was cheering among the crowd in between the sites of the two bombs when they went off.
“People started breaking the barricades that were holding all of the observers back. We just moved out in the street because it was just like, ‘Where’s the third bomb going to go off?’” Lozano says.
Lozano wasn’t hurt in the explosions. She tried to find her way back to her hotel – and to her husband.
He – and nearly 5,600 other runners – were cut off. None of them crossed the finish line.
“People asked about the marathon, and I said ‘Well I ran 26.15 miles of a 26.2-marathon.’ So, everyone said ‘Well it’s just like you finished you were just 150 yards away.’ It just didn’t feel that way, so that’s why I decided I’m headed back this year to finish what I started,” Breen says.
Disheartening as it was, Breen keeps it in perspective by remembering the victims who lost lives and limbs in the bombings.
“What an incredible sorrow for those people and for their families,” Breen says. “For me, to run 26 miles doesn’t seem like a big deal compared to what those people have to deal with.”
He sees today’s race as a celebration of life for them and says the show going on sends a powerful message.
His wife Anna is there again, too. She plans to be cheering in the same spot.