THE BLOG
04/18/2013 05:01 pm ET Updated Jun 17, 2013

Dare to Be 100: Heartbreak Hill

As I contemplated writing this blog, many topics crowded for attention.

But then April 15 happened.

This time yesterday I was running outside Wellesley, Mass. -- hopefully headed for the finish line of the 127th Boston Marathon still 13 miles ahead. I was chugging along at my tortoise plus pace, strong, happy, optimistic. I was even planning on smiling as I crossed the finish line which has not generally been the case at the end of my prior 42 marathons.

Somewhere in Newton a police car pulled alongside, "Are you aware of the bombing?" I figured it was some sort of weird joke, but he persisted. "We will let you go along a bit further, but further on, we will stop you. We have a line drawn around Boston. No one in. No one out."

It was then around three o'clock in the afternoon of a perfect April day, Patriots' Day. I'd been on the road for four hours, still sharp and optimistic. But a bomb? What the hell was I supposed to do with that information?

My momentum forced me forward. I was scanning my imagination as to possible future scenarios. A bomb and a marathon just makes no sense whatsoever. But the reality of Heartbreak Hill immediately ahead at mile 17 preoccupied my attention. Step after step, up and up Heartbreak Hill. There, at the 20-mile mark just a mile short of the peak, yellow police tape stretched across the route. "But officer, I'm a doctor. They must need me down there, and, besides what can I do with all of my clothes at the hotel just over the finish line?"

The wonderful cops herded maybe 300 of us still aspiring, perspiring marathoners into the City Hall of Newton. The mayor was there and was fabulous, as was everyone. Pizza and Oreo cookies abounded.

We were all in shock and confused. Information was impossible to come by. It was psychedelic and eerie. What once was a celebration of the human spirit and body became a nightmare. What next? Where to go? Nobody knew. After several hours of dawdling and confusion my sister-in-law who lives nearby in Weston responded to a cell-phone summons, and showed up to rescue my wife and me (she had exited the course at the 11-mile mark). We went to Joanne's home, showered and bedded down for a while to be awakened at three to get a cab back into the city.

We were unsure if we could make it. Streets were empty and no one else was about. The cabbie was clever, took side streets and soon we found ourselves across the street from our hotel which was on the very perimeter of the cordoned off area. Cops, soldiers in battle gear; a SWAT team, guns drawn, armored cars -- all at the end of a marathon?

We crawled out and made our way to the room to get cab fare and a big tip, to shower and pack and get my wife on the plane home. I was on my way to New York where I currently am to check on two grand daughters and pursue a couple errands. Nothing made any sense, I was an actor in a play, fiction had replaced reality. But survival commanded, emotions jumbled.

So here I am now, after 21 of the anticipated 26 miles completed. But far beyond the emphasis on personal sense of lack of closure, I recognize that I was a tiny player in a huge story. An historical event; a bomb and a marathon and me still on the course. Friends by the dozens sought reassurance. We did our best to get the word out and give confidence. Meanwhile the TV stations showed gruesome shots of what had occurred and where I would have been if I had not been so much a tortoise. Maybe the tortoise does have some survival skills in his or her lifestyle. I pity the poor hares who bore the brunt of the insanity.

This was all less than 24 hours ago, from the time of this writing.
Dare to be 100, re-affirmed.