COLUMN: Monday was almost the perfect day for Oxford resident Bret Beauchamp, an avid runner who had traveled to take part in the 117th annual Boston Marathon. Beauchamp was making his fifth appearance in the marathon, one he called the most organized sporting event he has ever been a part of, when tragedy struck.
Two bombs that were placed near the finish line, and located in the heart of countless spectators who routinely turn out to cheer the runners at Copley Square, were detonated approximately an hour after Beauchamp finished running the 26.2-mile course in a personal-best time of 2 hours, 56 minutes.
What had been a great day from a running standpoint — Beauchamp said the weather was ideal for the race — was erased shortly after he arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport for his flight back to Oxford. Beauchamp said he left his hotel located a block from where one of the bombs went off just 10 minutes after jumping into a cab for the airport, unaware of the destruction that was about to happen. Since that point when the bombs went off, the details of the race have mostly been forgotten.
“I never thought about getting a missed call at the time because the cell phones were down. I remember I got to the airport and I got a call from my wife and she wanted to know what was going on. I thought something was wrong back in Oxford and then I saw people watching it all on TV,” Beauchamp said. “It’s interesting now watching the news trying to piece things back together. I thought about something (Wednesday). They have a company, Marathonfoto, that takes pictures all throughout the course and I know at the finish line, there is a big photograph spot, not only for the fans, but for these companies that take pictures of the racers and I’m wondering if (law enforcement authorities are) going to talk to them and get some of their photos.
“They are looking for anything they can find and there are photos that are being taken from the time the first racer goes off until the finish line,” Beauchamp continued. “The report that I read that whenever the devices that were dropped, they were done in a two-hour time period when they did a final sweep before the pro racers went though. The pros finish in about two hours and 10 minutes and they said they did a final security sweep before they came through.”
Some 2,000 photos have been submitted for the FBI to analyze, according to an ABC News report.
Beauchamp, who has finished in the top five percent of the field each year he has competed, was just 46 minutes off the pace of the winner, Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia.
“I love going back there every year because you have to qualify for it and it’s the most prestigious marathon. It’s based on your age and your qualifying time and they just lowered the standards to make it a tougher race to get into,” said Beauchamp, who originally qualified for Boston six years ago by taking part in the New Orleans Marathon. “The Boston Athletic Association approves you and they put you in a grid and they tell you where to start. It’s the only marathon that I do each year so I like the ability to re-qualify there.”
Not competing in the marathon in 2014 hasn’t crossed Beauchamp’s mind.
“My belief, as an American, we’re very resilient and that’s the first thing that anybody that does this is to be afraid and not go back. To me, the Boston fans are the best sporting event fans in the whole world. My first thought is this is a tragedy and my heart goes out to the families of everyone that was involved but at the same time this is America and we’re great people and I can see us coming back stronger than before,” Beauchamp said. “A million people come out to watch that race, it’s Patriot’s Day and they’re off work, and line the road from the time you start in Hopkinton, where the race starts, until you get into the city and the finish line. They’re cheering you on the whole way.
“That city, they call it Marathon Monday, revolves around the race and for the most part they’re locals that come out. You look at the map and you go through all these little towns. You go through Wellesley College, you go through Boston College, and these kids are just supporting you. It’s amazing the fans that you pass. I will definitely go back, I want to go back and run, and I hope everybody comes back bigger and stronger than before.”
Other runners unsure
Beauchamp did say some of the runners he knew were unsure about making a return to Boston but some others feel the same way he does about running again. In saying that, Beauchamp did feel like the race will change.
“This will forever change the way the finish line area is set up, I really do. In the previous years I’ve been there, it’s been on the day before the race, everyone is allowed to walk down around the finish line and you see a lot of families taking pictures there around the finish line,” Beauchamp said. “Being the prestigious race that it is, it’s a big goal for all marathoners to qualify for Boston. It’s like the Augusta of marathons and they allow you to share in that experience with everyone who has going through all that training with you. I think that will forever change and we will be able to have that finish-line experience. They will really tighten up the area around there.”
Charity organizations are already heavily involved in the annual event, but Beauchamp thought there would be even more moving forward and possibly an increased entry fee to help benefit the victims.
“I know there have been many running organizations around the country that have stepped up in the last 48 hours that have offered to do charity runs to raise money, not only to the victims, but also to Boston charities that give back to the city,” Beauchamp said.
Oxford’s Kevin McGee, who owns Endurance Athletics on the Square, has already set up a 5K marathon on March 24 at a cost of $5 to enter to raise funds for the victims hurt in Monday’s attack.
“Kevin is calling every runner to try to get them to come out and run and I’m trying to get all my friends there as well,” Beauchamp said. “The night that I got home, he sent an e-mail about it wanting to do this. He said every dollar raised would be sent right back to whatever charity needed it the most in Boston.”
Those interested in running can visit Endurance Athletics’ Facebook page or call 380-5119. (April 18, 2013, Page 9)