By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
---- — Cheryl Marner was a mile from the finish line at last year’s Boston Marathon when all of the runners in front of her suddenly stopped.
The race had come to a halt, and at the time, she didn’t know why.
“There was a lot of confusion,” she said. “I heard a lot of sirens.”
Slowly, she and the runners around her pieced together what had happened. Two bombs went off near the race’s finish line.
She later found out those bombs killed three people and injured more than 250 others.
That could have been her, she said.
Marner injured her hamstring before the marathon and was running a bit slower than she normally does.
“My injury kept me behind the tragedy,” she said. “I didn’t see anything. It turned out to be a blessing.”
It would take her four hours to get back to her hotel after the bombs hit. It was chaos around her, and everyone was afraid, she said.
Marner wouldn’t say anything more about that day, though. It wasn’t her story to tell, she said. We should be talking about those who were hurt or died in the blast, she said.
“What I went through was nothing compared to what they went through,” she said.
Marner is headed back to Boston this week to run in Monday’s marathon, which just happens to fall on her 55th birthday.
It will be her sixth time to run in Boston.
“There isn’t anything I’d rather be doing on my birthday,” she said. “I want to run in honor of the victims. I want to go back and cross the finish line for them.”
Marner has spent the last six months training for the race. She’d run four or five miles a day, five days a week and then run eight to 10 miles on the weekend.
She gradually increased her mileage until she was running 22 miles on the weekend.
And not once did she run on the treadmill. Some days she trudged through the snow. Other days she added layer after layer to protect her from temperatures that felt like 30 below.
“Those days weren’t the most fun days,” she said. “But if you live in Indiana, you can’t wait for the perfect day.”
It’s good practice for grueling conditions on race day, she said.
Marner didn’t have to qualify for this year’s marathon. She received an invitation to run, an invitation that was extended to about 5,000 people who almost finished the race last year before the bombs went off. Marner said about 4,000 of those people agreed to return.
She knows the atmosphere in Boston this year will be really special. Everyone is linked by the tragedy, she said.
“We all want to pull together and demonstrate Boston is strong,” she said. “Boston is a special place. They open up their hearts and make us feel special.”
She isn’t at all afraid to go back to the site of the tragedy, she said. She’s received emails about security upgrades for this year’s race. She knows there will be a heightened police presence. It will probably be the safest place in the U.S. Monday, she said.
Even if it wasn’t, Marner said she wouldn’t hesitate to run the race.
“In the aftermath of Boston [last year] it reinforced the idea that anything can happen on any day,” she said. “I don’t want a senseless tragedy to stop me from doing something I love.”
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at email@example.com or on Twitter @LindseyZiliak.