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Mike G's story


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On the afternoon of Monday, April 15th, 2013, I was skipping class, enjoying the beautiful day and strolling down Boylston Street with my mother. We stopped at the food court at the Prudential Center to get a slice of pizza, since I had forgotten to eat lunch. We were watching for my father, who was on pace to finish the marathon just before 3pm. Although we had seen Dad run the race before, we had never seen him actually cross the finish line, so we decided to work our way down the street to try to get a good view.
A cloud of smoke suddenly obstructed our view of the finish line, accompanied with a pop like a firework. I turned to my mother to ask her if there were supposed to be fireworks. It seemed like an odd time for fireworks, since the race had been won many hours before. The second explosion detonated across the street from us, about a block away. The entire façade of a building was shrouded in thick white smoke. I could feel the booming noise in my chest. I took my mother by the shoulders and ran, looking for a way to get off the street. A man in a suit held open a glass door, yelling for people to come inside. In the chaos and confusion, about twenty people entered this tiny lobby, jamming it full for a few seconds as people pushed each other around. I held still with my mother, telling her that we were safe.
Slowly, the lobby began to clear out as people returned to the streets. We emerged to a striking scene of chaos. Emergency vehicles roared down the street, sirens blaring away. Eventually the policemen ran out of police cars and had to settle for their own minivans. Soon they had formed a wall of yellow jackets and were pushing people up the street towards Mass Ave. We still didn’t know where my father was.
The next half hour seemed to stretch for several years. I nervously scanned the runners stopped on the other side of Mass Ave, while my mother looked behind us toward the empty, littered street. The people around us were all confused. Some stumbled drunkenly. Others were taking pictures and videos with their phone. An empty bus sat across the street. We ran into an old friend of ours who was trying to get back home. People started handing out plastic bags and waters to the runners to try to help them stay warm and hydrated. We finally found Dad among the growing pack stopped just before Comm Ave goes under Mass Ave. Mom spotted him first, and we ran to him and hugged him.
I couldn’t sleep much that week, and when I did I had nightmares. I couldn’t pay attention in class. My hands shook too much to take notes or write homework. I spent a lot of time outside.
At the time, I was living on Mass Ave in Cambridge, a block away from MIT’s campus. On Thursday night, I was with a friend of mine in my room, trying to watch a movie. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I received an email stating only “Stay inside – shots fired an an officer down on Vassar Street.” I again feared for my father’s life – at the time, he was a police officer assigned to Logan Airport. It was odd, but not inconceivable, that he would be in Cambridge at the time. I called him immediately and broke into tears when I heard his voice. I later learned that Officer Sean Collier had given his life in service to the MIT community.
I started running at the end of April. It started off as a way to exhaust myself so I could sleep a little better at night. It became something meditative as my distances increased. Soon, I was devoting hours on the weekend to running, because it helped me remain calm. I began to eat more healthily and take better care of myself. In October, I ran the BAA half marathon. My mother and father also ran, as well as several of my friends, including the one who stayed with me the night of April 19th.
In January, I was accepted to the MIT Strong team to run the 2014 Boston Marathon in honor of Officer Collier. At the time, I had no idea what a wild journey I had just begun. I trained with my father in the wind and the cold of that winter, and made many friends on the team. The experienced runners on the team, and the experience of my father, were invaluable in training, and I could not have completed the marathon without them.
On April 21st, 2014, I crossed the finish line of the 2014 Boston Marathon with my father at my side. The run was far more difficult than I had anticipated. I hadn’t been able to train in warm weather, so the warmer temperatures were quite surprising. I lost the ability to sweat somewhere around mile 16 or 17, right when the hills start. My stomach hurt as I ran to the top of Heartbreak Hill, which I found odd, because they don’t call it Stomachache Hill. Around mile 22, I had an asthma attack for the first time in years, and had to stop in at a medical tent briefly. My father stayed with me through it all, and as I got close to Kenmore and saw the CITGO sign looming, I knew I would finish. All along the route were chants and cheers for MIT Strong. My mother, brother, and sister were there at the finish, cheering us on.
We finished in four hours, 27 minutes. According to the BAA, I finished a second before him, even though we crossed side-by-side. I’ll never forget the turn onto Boylston Street. Looking back on my experiences now, I am still amazed at how a little bit of running every day can add up over time.


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