Sunny and warm but not too hot, and with much less humidity, San Diego presents an ideal climate – and with all those miles under their belts, four San Diegans were pretty confident they’d finish the race and hit their time goals (in related matters, San Diegan Meb Keflezighi was unable to defend his 2014 title, and a race to the finish in the women’s division ended with Kenyan Caroline Rotich eking out a win over Ethiopian Mare Dibaba).
But this is the Boston Marathon, and anything can happen here, as the world witnessed two years ago. The already storied event has risen to a new prominence since the bombings that led to four deaths and the injuries to hundreds during the race in 2013. And in a twist that rivals that of a novel, the surviving bomber is awaiting sentencing after being convicted of all 30 counts of murder and conspiracy on April 8 in a Boston federal court.
San Diego was one of many cities that rallied behind Boston after the tragedy, raising funds and awareness. Events like The Boston Strong San Diego run, organized by Vavi, the San Diego running club (where thousands of runners came out to show their support for The Last Run To Boston, organized by boom RUNNING owner Mike Daly), were commonplace.
Jenni Ceglowski, who completed this year's half-marathon at 01.39.38, grew up in Arizona and has been a San Diego transplant for about five years. Her husband got her into running about a year after moving to San Diego as a way to explore, meet people and enjoy the legendary good weather.
“It was really incredible to see the community come together here in San Diego after the Boston bombings,” Ceglowski said before the race. “I attended various events and runs, and the sense of support was unreal — just about everyone had a connection to the Boston Marathon. People came together to support their homes, friends and families, remember their pasts, defend their dreams and honor their country in what we did best — run. The Boston Marathon has come to symbolize our strength as a community and as a nation, our ability to stand up and push on, our empathy to reach out and support those around us, our drive, our courage and our determination to put one foot in front of the other even when we are faced with obstacles.”
For most of the runners, there are competitive and emotional reasons for running Boston. San Diego has a large running community, and there are many people with ties to Boston.
A Road Runner Sports marketing manager who has been running for 20 years, Garrett Sheehan, originally from Kingston, R.I., has lived in San Diego for 10 years. He finished with a time of 03.03.03, remarking that Bostonians “bleed passion for this race, just like they do for their sports teams.
“I think people around the world will tell you it’s ‘the’ marathon, the one that you have to do, a box you have to check as a runner,” said Sheehan, 32. “There are amazing runners out here, and the Boston Marathon is a goal for everybody. We’re 3,000 miles away, but for people training for marathons, Boston is on the top of the list.”
Sheehan said there is an added importance to running Boston this year. “I qualified last year, and I’ve been training the last six months to get ready for this. I’ve been working my butt off… and with the bomber trial happening, I think all runners took that personally, so I am excited to get out there, be a part of it, embrace it and take it back.”
Lauren Padula, finishing at 03.19.54, is a running coach who received a doctorate in physical therapy from Northeastern University and has been living — and training — in the San Diego warmth for the last six years.
“I ran Boston in 2007,” Padula said, “and actually went to school at Northeastern. I honestly think that the large number of people who live out here are connected to Boston. So many of us either went to college in Boston or are from the East Coast or have run Boston before, so it really affected us too when the bombings happened. It was on my college bucket list to run Boston. After the bombings, I said I want to run Boston again, I need to run Boston again.”
Runners often talk about the electric energy to this race and that it is unlike any other marathon, with the possible exception of the New York City Marathon, that traverses that city every fall.
Eric Marenburg, born and raised in Peabody, Mass., can say as much. He's a competitive runner, running cross-country and track and field in high school. He went on to run competitively at the University of Maryland as a walk-on and has completed six marathons, including Boston three times. His personal best was 02:39:53, and he expected to finish this year at about 02:45 – but he had a rough day, struggling with foot pains and the inclement weather as he came in at 03.24.
“During the last three miles, when I wanted to walk all the way in,” he said, “I came across a girl in tears as she was chugging along. When I asked what was wrong, all she could say was she was so cold. We understood that runner bond and that we were both struggling but [that] if we can do this together we can finish. Thanks to her, I was able to run all the way to the finish, hurting foot (and hips by that point) and all.”
But the race is more than tears and weather and aching bodies.
“As a runner,” Marenburg said, “the best thing about Boston is you don’t have to know anyone to be cheered on because it’s such a celebration — you feel like a rock star running down the street, especially Boylston (site of the bombings). In some ways, the Boston experience ruins you, because once you do that, nothing rivals the energy.”
He too, cited the added inspiration of running the Boston Marathon this year.
“My motivation to be here this year were the events in 2013. It was certainly a huge influence in wanting to qualify so I could get back out there. Since the bombings happened, a lot of the people who are running it this year were motivated by this.”
Terri Stanley, former editor of Boston Common magazine, is a writer, television program developer and producer who saw her "styleboston" magazine-format program win two regional Emmy Awards, including in the Outstanding Magazine Program category in 2013.