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Beth Sanden poses with a Wounded Warrior following the Boston Marathon. Courtesy photo
Beth Sanden poses with a Wounded Warrior following the Boston Marathon. Courtesy photo

Beth Sanden shares the sights and sounds of the 2014 Boston Marathon on the first anniversary of the deadly bombings

By Beth Sanden

This was more than a marathon.

There was no room for fear. You train and compete hard to get a spot in the prestigious Boston Marathon and take part in it. April 21 was not about a personal best time but more like a celebration in a large room—20 people deep and 26.2 miles long. We were all here completing unfinished business from last year’s marathon, which was brought to a halt by bombs at the finish line.

There are always gaps where we do not see people on the sidelines in other marathons and you are all alone, trying to do your best to be motivated. But not in Boston—and especially not during this year’s race. Some 36,000 participants and one million spectators came to take Boston back.

There were also members of the National Guard, sent out every five minutes to walk the course alongside Boston Police, Sheriffs and Highway Patrol. There were helicopters overhead for safety.

I arrived on Thursday, April 17, and was embraced at Old South Church, located near the finish line, where Bostonians gave out over 8,000 hand-knit scarves from all 50 states and the eight countries represented in the race. Every scarf was adorned in marathon colors, declaring solidarity for all the athletes coming to the race. There were notes safety pinned to each scarf by those who made them with encouraging words of support.

Friday night was a Nike/Challenged Athletes Foundation fundraiser and celebration dinner for those whom my organization helped obtain prosthetics due to loss of limbs. Celeste Corcoran, a double amputee who lost her legs in the bombings of last year, was there to greet us and tell her story. It was a story of hope because of the foundation’s help and also a story of courage. Corcoran told us her daughter and sister were going to run across the finish line together this year, which they did.

Saturday, our 25 Wounded Warriors from the Achilles International Freedom Team were flown in from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to participate in the marathon. They wanted to show people what hope we all have by taking back lost ground not just from last year at the marathon, but through the tragedy and suffering they had been through fighting for our freedom.

By Monday we were so ready for this eventful marathon and hundreds of buses came into the city to transport us to the town of Hopkinton for the start. First the blind racers took off, then the amputees and duos, like Rick and Dick Hoyt. Monday marked the 32nd and final time Dick pushed his son Rick, who has Cerebral Palsy, through the marathon.

Then came the race wheelchairs and finally the hand cycle division—my division. Elite women, elite men and all age groups ran all day and night to finis—taking back our sport.

It took 2:22 for me to finish this course and I was not looking for a personal best. I spent time blowing kisses to everyone along the way, including those who had our safety in mind. I felt God had us covered the whole way to the finish line. You should have heard the crowds when I blew those kisses, they cheered even louder, especially at the finish line when they called out my name on Boylston Street.

“Here comes Beth Sanden from San Clemente, Calif. blowing kisses as the crowd goes wild for her finish!” the P.A announcer said.

You could hear the roars all around you. And that is what resonated for all the finishers this year at the 2014 Boston Marathon.

Beth Sanden is a San Clemente resident and avid marathon racer. She was partially paralyzed from the waist down several years ago and now mentors other disabled athletes through organizations like Challenged Athletes Foundation. She is a member of Achilles International, a nonprofit that helps disabled athletes get back into sports and active lifestyles.

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comments (1)

  • Hi Beth! I was a scarfmaker and volunteer with the Marathon Scarf Project. Old South Church received nearly 7,400 from 49 states and I believe 12 countries, although there was no association with people from other countries who ran the marathon, just generous crafters from around the world who were moved to make scarves. If you’re interested in learning more about what went into the project you can read about it at my blog:
    https://curiousthreads.wordpress.com/2014/04/24/dear-runners/
    Congratulations!

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