By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Meghan Cole and her younger cousin ran 5.2 miles from Stacy Boulevard, through town to Niles Beach and around to the Good Harbor Footbridge, ticking off the miles that remained after her 26.2-mile marathon run was cut short at mile 21 Monday.
That had been when police had stepped out in front of the runners, turning the marathoners away from the two bomb blasts that killed three people and injured over 170 near the historic Boston Marathon’s finish line.
Cole, a 2005 Gloucester High School graduate, had run sprints as a track athlete all through high school, but this 117th Boston Marathon was her first 26.2 mile race. But she said Wednesday she plans to return to Boston for next year’s run — despite Monday’s terrorist attack.
“I’m not going to let this prevent me from doing anything else,” Cole said. “I’ve gotten on a plane since 9/11 and we can’t let this instill fear in us.”
Cape Ann residents who had volunteered at the race, watched the awe-inspiring trek, or run the miles for charity or for competition were already vowing Wednesday to return next year.
Dr. David Driscoll had traveled from his Essex home to volunteer at the marathon’s medical tents for his eighth year in a row, taking the day off from his work at the Medical Group in Beverly. Though people might think a doctor could more easily disconnect himself from the tragedy, Driscoll said that, despite his training, thoughts of the affected families continued to cross through his mind Wednesday.
“We’re exposed to trauma and a lot of medical issues all the time, but this really had a different effect,” Driscoll said. “Maybe because it’s one thing when you’re in an emergency room and someone comes in sick or you’re in your office, but it’s another thing when you’re down there treating healthy runners and the environment changes so rapidly and you’re thrown into a war zone.”
Driscoll said the explosions shook the tent, where he was already treating a dehydrated runner who had completed the race. He and the runner’s eyes connected and he knew “something bad had happened” as he felt the vibrations rumble through his chest.
“We were all set for a disaster like this, but no one expected it,” Driscoll said. “We were prepared, but we didn’t expect it.”
Driscoll, a longtime volunteer, said he expects to see changes next year, in security and medical training, too. But, he said at least one thing is a definite. He will be there.
“We have to remain strong and resilient and we have to remain hopeful and I look forward to coming back next year. We have to come together,” Driscoll said.
His wife Ginger agreed.
“We’re absolutely going to be there next year. And we’re absolutely getting involved already,” Ginger Driscoll said.
Hilary Aberle had reached 25.8 miles when she saw the smoke rise and police cut across the runners’ paths.
Aberle who graduated Gloucester High School in 2000 before moving to Somerville, scanned the crowd as smoke spread, and eventually spotted her family, clad in florescent yellow T-shirts with her name printed on them. The family who had come to cheer Aberle on, ready to photograph her as she neared the end of the race, were running toward her from their viewing spot right by the corner of Hereford Street and Boylston.
Aberle, who works as an after-school programs coordinator at a Somerville school, had raised money for Mass. Mentoring Partnership, and was running in the later wave with other charity runners in what was her first marathon.
The two bombs, exploding as the charity runners crossed the finish and long after the competitive racers had completed the course, she said, especially shook the spirit.
“It’s an international event and a reason for people to come to Boston to do something pretty great, but also for people to celebrate and come together,” Aberle said. “And for someone to attack something that could only be good, at the time when all the charity runners were going through, all these people who had taken the time to raise money for charities, it almost couldn’t be any worse.”
Aberle returned to work at school Wednesday but cut her day short when she found it difficult to answer the well-meaning but pressing questions from young students about the race.
Had she run fast? Did she win? Had she walked at all? She just was not prepared to address the queries, she said.
Though Aberle’s run was halted with less than a half mile before the blue and yellow finish line Monday, she plans to heal and enter again, an enduring runner proving her determination to herself.
A quote traveled the channels of social media Wednesday morning, zipping from Facebook pages to Twitter posts and ringing true all along the way.
“If you are trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target,” it read.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.