Author: Linda Ambard
As I was running the Boston Marathon, I was the cheerful girl zipping through the marathon with a swish of her red polka dotted skirt and a huge smile on her face. I ribbed the Army people working the course with my call out, "Air Power." Yes, I really was there and I really felt like I was seizing my life back. The Boston Marathon became the metaphor for my life. I focused on running with purpose and joy up Heartbreak Hill never once imagining the horror that was about to unfold right before my eyes less than a quarter of a mile from the finish line. I could see the finish line and I could hear the cheers. I was smiling because I was feeling good about the race and I was feeling good about how much I had grown as a woman since the death of my Phil on 27 April 2011. Fear? Not that day. I was smiling, waving, and moving quickly towards yet another marathon finish when I heard the first boom and I saw the grayish white smoke. I took pause, but I ran on in ignorance. In a very short time--seconds-- the screaming started and people were sprinting back towards me away from the prized finish line. In one blink, my race went from a testimony of how far I had come to fear--profound fear.
I find joy in running and I have grabbed my life back by running. It is the singular aspect of my life that allows me to find my faith and to find happiness. I sat in total disbelief. How could it be that two potty breaks saved me that day? How could it be that as I was running to snub my nose at the terrorist that took Phil, another sought to destroy the hard-fought happiness I have found. It could not end this way. I was shaking and I was physically ill that night, but I decided I would pick myself up, one faltering step at a time, until I could run victorious once again. I could not, I cannot, let these vile monsters create any more fear in my life. I just can't.
I sprinted away from what my heart was crying for, but there were heroes that day. I cowered in fear in the Dunkin Doughnuts store weeping and unsure of my own safety, but a stranger, a nurse, found me and stayed with me. She helped me get in touch with an Army man I had just met at a training I had attended. He brought his family and found me. He got me back to my hotel. Somewhere in those two hours I waited to be rescued, my heart kicked in. I wrote my initial reactions on Facebook shortly after I got back to my hotel. I felt anger and I felt the push to make a statement by embracing happiness and embracing the life I have been given. I thought to myself, I cannot cower in fear and quiet desperation; I must run on even when I do not want to. . . even when my knees clatter together. I have to seize back my life because I cannot give terrorism any more of my life. Make no mistake, my heart broke at Boston. It crushed me that I never got to cross the finish line and to know that I will probably never get the opportunity to run it again, but the worst is what it did to my five adult children--four of whom are serving in the military. It brought back the death of their dad because for four hours, I was unaccounted for. My children were terrified and that is what hurt. This event brought fear back into my family--fear of loss and fear of violent acts. How could I fix the hurts in my children when I was right there? To have one's children sob because they finally know that all is well, is wrenching, but in that moment, my resolve became a steely determination to stand up…to run on… and to find joy. I asked for prayers and I asked for some time to process this event. I will find the strength that I fall into with my faith. The terrorist will never EVER maim my heart, my spirit, or my drive to live life out loud. Got that?
I may not feel much like rejoicing, and I may not feel like I am in control of my life today, but I do know this: with faltering steps, I will stumble on. Each day I will be stronger and each day I will grab more of my life from the dark pit of fear. Heartbreak Hill may hurt like heck, but as I continue on, I see that I am stronger than I ever thought and I will run strong to the end--Boston Strong. I really do believe that the Boston Marathon is a metaphor for life which is why I must find a way to get a number next year. I run to honor, but I run also for me.